Senate Republicans under criticism after blocking burn pit benefits bill

Senate Republicans under criticism after blocking burn pit benefits bill
UPI

July 28 (UPI) — Senate Republicans are under heavy political fire after they blocked a bill that would have granted healthcare coverage to veterans suffering from exposure to toxic burn pits during service.

The criticism stems from Wednesday’s vote in the Senate, when the Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act failed by a 55-42 vote, just shy of clearing a filibuster-proof 60.

The PACT Act had passed the Senate on a bipartisan 84-14 vote in June. But after undergoing changes in the House, which passed the bill in a 342-88 vote, the new version failed to muster enough support in the Senate.

“This is total bull—-,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told reporters outside the Capitol. “We had strong bipartisan support for this bill. And at the eleventh hour, Sen. (Pat) Toomey decides that he wants to rewrite the bill, change the rules, and tank it.”

Toomey, R-Penn., said he voted against the bill because of a “budget gimmick that would allow $400 billion of current law spending to be moved from the discretionary to the mandatory spending category.”

“By failing to remove this gimmick, Congress would effectively be using an important veterans care bill to hide a massive, unrelated spending binge,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the move an “act of cowardice” that will “actively harm this country’s veterans and their families.”

“Republicans chose today to rob generations of toxic-exposed veterans across this country of the health care and benefits they so desperately need — and make no mistake, more veterans will suffer and die as a result,” Tester added in a statement.

Veterans’ advocates were left dismayed by the bill’s failure.

“Every day that this delay goes on, veterans are unable to receive care,” Lawrence Montreuil, legislative director for The American Legion, told The Hill. “This is wrong — we will not stand by and allow veterans to be denied their duly owed health care.”

A visibly-shaken Jon Stewart, who went to the capital to follow deliberations over the bill, called the debacle a “disgrace.”

“You don’t tell their cancer to take a recess, tell their cancer to stay home and go visit their families,” Stewart, of “Daily Show” fame, told reporters after the hearing, at times pausing to regain his composure. “This disgrace, if this is America first, America is f—-d.”

Jon Stewart generally stays in the background and lets vets and advocates speak but this morning he is clearly fed up that the Senate failed to pass the burn pits bill. His message to GOP senators who voted against this “get this done, he tells me.” ⁦@NewsNation⁩ pic.twitter.com/fBCKpY2nbV— Kellie Meyer (@KellieMeyerNews) July 28, 2022

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