MSNBC host Rachel Maddow called out retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on Friday for standing in the way of a bill that would provide more resources for suicide prevention programs for veterans.
“He’s retiring after two terms in office,” Maddow said of Coburn. “He’s apparently decided that blocking the Clay Hunt suicide prevention bill for veterans is gonna be the last thing he does that anybody ever knows about.”
The bill, which passed in the House by a voice vote on Tuesday, is named after a 28-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who committed suicide three years ago, after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
But Coburn, who has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for his willingness to block legislation, has imposed a parliamentary hold on the Hunt bill.
“From what we understand, his objection is the cost,” Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, told Maddow. “The cost is $22 million. In the scope of the federal budget, it is just so small. There is no way you can put a price on the lives of these young men and women who serve in our military. So it is baffling, the thinking that is going behind this.”
The measure has amassed bipartisan support among lawmakers, as well as endorsements from veterans’ groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. It would institute annual reviews for suicide prevention programs at the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, as well as a program covering student loan costs for psychiatrists who complete a two-year pilot program with the department.
“It’s in no way shape or form. It’s not the total answer,” Hunt’s father, Richard Selke, said. “But we believe it’s a step in the right direction for our veterans.”
The Selkes also recorded a video appealing to Coburn to release the hold, identifying themselves as Texas Republicans.
“If I had $22 million in the bank right now, I’d write that check,” Richard Selke says in the video. “I don’t have it, and you don’t have it. But what you do have is power.”
Watch Maddow’s interview with Hunt’s parents, as aired on Friday, below.