Last June, the United States Senate passed a bill that would provide health care and benefits for millions of veterans injured by exposure to toxins, from Agent Orange in Vietnam to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. It had bipartisan support, passing 84-14, but a technical error required another vote. No problem, right? It’s already passed once before so we know the support is there. I mean, Republicans and Democrats both support our troops, right? Nope.
On Thursday, the second vote failed. The final vote was 55-42 (with three senators abstaining), falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. What happened? How’d it go from 84 senators supporting it to just 55? The answer is, Republicans.
The bill, known as the PACT Act, no longer would force generations of veterans to prove their illness was caused by toxic exposures suffered in the military in order to get VA coverage. It had been hailed as the largest expansion of care in VA history and was expected to cost $280 billion over a decade. Activists have been fighting for this for over a dozen years. One of its biggest supporters is comedian Jon Stewart.
More than two dozen Republicans switched their votes, claiming that it forced “mandatory” spending. This is bullshit since the bill they voted against Thursday was EXACTLY the same as the bill they voted for in June. Also, who cares if the spending is “mandatory?” Shouldn’t all spending on the health of those who fought for our nation be mandatory?
Outside the Capitol, Stewart said, “They lived up to their oath! These people thought they could finally breathe. You think their trouble ends because the Pact Act passes? All that means is they don’t have to decide between their cancer drugs and their house.”
Democratic Senator Jon Tester said, “My colleagues can make up all sorts of excuses as to why they decided to change their vote for this bill, but the bottom line is, veterans will suffer and die as a result on behalf of these excuses, and that’s why we’ve got to pass this bill.”
Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who led the opposition to the bill, called it a “budgetary gimmick” by the Democrats and said it would create $400 billion in unrelated spending by moving it from the discretionary to mandatory category.
The Republicans who switched their votes are John Barrasso, Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, Mike Braun, Bill Cassidy, John Cornyn, Tom Cotton, Kevin Cramer, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst, Deb Fischer, Bill Hagerty, Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Jim Inhofe, Ron Johnson, John Kennedy, Roger Marshall, Mitch McConnell, Rob Portman, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Dan Sullivan, and Todd Young. Additionally, Steve Daines and Roger Wicker voted against the bill after not voting in June.
This is just like when they claim to support police and then vote against a commendation for those who fought off the white nationalist Trump terrorists during the January 6 coup attempt.
The bill is named for Heath Robinson, who served near a burn pit during his deployments to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and died of a rare cancer in 2020. His mother-in-law Susan Zeier said of those senators who voted against the bill, “Every single one has pictures with veterans on their Facebook pages, on their websites. Well, screw that, they don’t support veterans. If you won’t vote on this bill, you do not support veterans.”
Standing around in an airport with a Dr. Pepper after the vote, and probably trying to catch a flight to Cancun, Ted Cruz told TMZ that Jon Stewart was “actually kinda funny” but he opposed the bill because the Democrats are playing a “budgetary trick” by taking “discretionary” spending and moving it to “mandatory.” Jon Stewart had a reply to this.
Stewart described Cruz’s claim as “inaccurate, not true, bullshit”
Stewart said, “Now I’m not a big city, Harvard-educated lawyer,” he said, “but I can read. It’s always been mandatory spending, so the government can’t just cut off their funding at any point. No trick, no gimmick, been there the whole fucking time.”
Ted Cruz is stupid enough to take on Jon Stewart. It’s not a good idea. Don’t these goons remember when Tucker Carlson tried to take him on years ago? What happened then was, Tucker lost his show.
Cruz said he supports the bill even though he voted against it. I’m not big city Harvard-educated lawyer either, but I know that if you support a bill, you vote for it. You don’t vote against it then stand around in an airport drinking Dr. Pepper saying you support it. Ted Cruz, this is why people don’t like you, you sanctimonious piece of shit.
Stewart used his YouTube channel to go after Cruz and the other Republicans where he lambasted them for “praising to the heavens our nation’s fighting men and women” and then played a clip of Cruz “fist-bumping his Senate colleagues after removing those same veterans’ benefits and healthcare for toxic wounds.”
Jon Stewart ended his video by calling Cruz a “motherfucker.”
So, why did Republicans vote for it and then vote against it when the bill hadn’t changed? There isn’t an official reason from the GOP, at least not one that makes sense. They talked about discretionary and mandatory spending along with “budgetary gimmicks.” These same people who never raise concerns or even notice if spending is mandatory or discretionary when they vote for aircraft carriers, nuclear missiles, and tax cuts for asshole billionaire trust-fund babies now pretend to care about spending when it comes to our veterans.
The reason they did this is that they’re upset over Senator Joe Manchin reaching a deal with Chuck Schumer and Democrats on the Build Back Better plan. This is a win for President Biden. So, in protest, the GOP took something bipartisan to punish the Democrats. Instead, they’re punishing our veterans.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said the “charitable explanation” is that Republicans simply changed their minds, with the alternative being that they “are mad that Democrats are on the verge of passing climate change legislation and have decided to take out their anger on vulnerable veterans.”
Republicans are sore losers so they’re going to take something totally unrelated and use wounded veterans as political pawns. They are screwing our veterans over for their politics.
Jon Stewart is right. They’re all motherfuckers.
Music note: I listened to Kaiser Chiefs.
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