Republican senators have discovered that trying to block veterans from healthcare doesn't play well among American voters. With fewer than 100 days until the 2022 midterm elections, GOP senators who previously supported legislation to care for veterans with cancer due to burn pits voted it down. Now they're having second thoughts, Politico reported.
It was mere weeks ago when 84 Senators, all Democrats and a hefty chunk of Republicans, voted to pass the bill. One small tweak in the language was eliminated involving taking over private care, but it didn't change anything meaningful in the bill. But last week, Republicans voted it down. They've been trying to justify it by saying that Democrats added in all of these budget spending measures, but those were actually in the bill they supported.
Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart raged at Republican officials for the excuse in videos that have gone viral.
Veterans are protesting by staging a sit-in along the halls of the Senate office buildings, forcing Republicans to walk by them. Activist Paul Rieckhoff of Righteous Media told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace that at least one of the men sleeping on the floor is hooked up to oxygen.
Former Donald Trump Homeland Security chief of staff, Miles Taylor, said the opposition is actually part of an ongoing effort by lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to defund the Veterans Administration and privatize it. He recalled when he was working for the Trump administration that there were many who were trying to bring down the VA, but decided it couldn't happen in Trump's first term because he would need to be reelected.
But other Republicans claim that it was an effort by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who tried to claim a "budgetary gimmick." As political strategists say frequently, however, if you're trying to explain yourself, you're losing.
"Regardless of their reasoning, the GOP was quickly forced to play defense against both Democrats and veterans’ advocates who were caught off-guard by Republican delaying tactics after the party greenlit a nearly identical bill in June," wrote Politico.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has tried to blame Democrats for Republicans voting against the bill, saying they "screwed up the first time." His problem is he has to explain how Democrats screwed up but still got 84 votes to pass it.
“I’m doing everything I can do,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who has been trying to get the bill passed since 2021. "I don’t know [if] people really understand what they were voting on, to be honest with you. There’s no slush fund in this."
Toomey is trying to rally the GOP around an amendment, which some Republicans like Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) would support, but they're not willing to let the bill die if the amendment isn't approved.
The GOP's lack of support has pitted Republicans against groups like the American Legion and AMVETS, which have volunteers at the Capitol. The Vietnam Veterans of America have been close allies to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans because they too experienced toxic chemical exposure when fighting overseas. It's become a public relations nightmare mere days before the senators are expected to go home to campaign during the August Recess.
\u201cSigns from the #PACTAct protest outside the Capitol today.\u201d— Leo Shane III (@Leo Shane III) 1659369409
\u201cI want to thank @Burnpit360 for flipping a Senator.\n\nIt should never be happening this way, but because of @ROSIETO59994621 and all the veterans on the steps of the Captiol, we are one step closer to #PassthePactact.\u201d— Ted Corcoran (RedTRaccoon) (@Ted Corcoran (RedTRaccoon)) 1659393322