Republicans are facing harsh criticism from both Democrats and veterans after they refused to support the Honoring Our PACT Act which would give health care to veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their time of service. The bill originally passed the Senate on a bipartisan 84-14 vote, but after changes were allegedly made in the House, Republicans argue that the bill now contains pork that was not in the original bill.
The pork under question is allegedly a $400 billion provision that would allow Congress to spend on unrelated programs; however, as of now, Congress has not released the amended text to the public, which has only added fuel to an already tense spectacle as veterans are protesting in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart went on a long rant on MSNBC against Senate Republicans, calling their opposition “despicable.”
“All that nonsense that Toomey says about $400 billion of a slush fund that opens the door to that possibility, you know who can close that door? The Senate and the House because they have the power of appropriation,” he said. “So, there is no $400 billion slush fund. And if he was against slush funds, maybe he wouldn’t have voted for the $60-$70 billion overseas operations contingency fund that they vote for every year, above and beyond the Defense Department spending. They always have money for the war with no guardrails and no oversight, but all of a sudden, they get religion on a health care bill for veterans.”
Stewart’s claims, however, are misguided. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said that the “budgetary gimmick” included by Democrats can be resolved through amending the bill so that “spending can go from mandatory back to discretionary, which means it is subjected to the annual appropriations process,” the CT Mirror reports.
In an interview on CNN with Jake Tapper, Toomey accused Congress of using a vulnerable group to ramp up spending for an unrelated cause.
“First of all, this is the oldest trick in Washington,” he told Tapper. “People take a sympathetic group of Americans—and it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals—craft a bill to address their problems, and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own and dare Republicans to do anything about it, because they know they will unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo- celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn’t be there.”
In a statement responding to Stewart, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that he supports the PACT Act, but that the current version passed by the House contains an “irresponsible Democratic provision allowing Congress to recklessly spend an additional $400 billion on programs totally unrelated to our veterans.” Republicans are working to advance the bill without the provision, the statement continues, alleging that Democrats knew about this issue but chose to ignore it.
“That refusal is why the bill is currently stalled. Democrats must work with Republicans and fix this issue to prevent inflationary spending that will hurt all Americans. Once that happens, the PACT Act will quickly become law.”
The is a developing story.