Less than a week after Republicans blocked legislation many of them previously supported, the Senate passed legislation to provide health care to U.S. veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
Every senator who caucused with Democrats and many Republicans voted for the bill, and only 11 senators voted against it. Last Wednesday, 25 Republicans reversed their votes on previously-backed legislation, which was supported by a 84-14 vote.
But after the House voted on the legislation on July 14, the Senate needed another vote on the legislation. Sen. Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, specifically opposed a “budget stunt” that would allow $400 billion to shift from discretionary spending to mandatory spending.
In turn, Mr Toomey led the charge, with 25 senators overturning their vote. In response, many veterans camped outside the U.S. Capitol to protest the Senate’s blocking of the legislation.New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told independent She spoke with multiple Republicans over the weekend, “clearing up a lot of misconceptions about where this vote is going and what it does.”
“I think we’re in a really good position,” she said.
Ms Gillibrand also defended welfare spending, which was placed under mandatory rather than discretionary spending.
“You can’t ask veterans to come to Washington every year to seek resources for their health care,” she said. “It has to be mandatory funding. It was written that way from the beginning.”
Veterans are supported by TV host and comedian Jon Stewart, an outspoken advocate for veterans, as he leaves his hosting chair daily show.
“Now, if they’re upset because they didn’t get their amendments, but I got people you know, people with cancer here. Like, I’m sorry you didn’t get your amendments, but parliamentary procedures shouldn’t be priority,” Mr Stewart told independent“So now we’re voting on the same damn bill.”
Mr. Stewart also criticized the image of some Republicans celebrating and colliding fists in the Senate last week after legislation stalled.
“The whole thing was a punch to everyone,” he said. “The truth is that everyone thought it was just a procedural vote and they were here to celebrate the end of a 15-year struggle on behalf of the men and women who were poisoned, and when things went the other way, when There’s a celebration of it, you know, it’s devastating.”
Mr. Stewart praised the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, Republican Sen. Jerry Moran and Sen. John Bozeman of Arkansas for advocating for the bill.
Meanwhile, some Republicans sought to accuse Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of not allowing a vote on the amendment last week.
“As you know, I’m a veteran,” Florida Senator Rick Scott, who served in the U.S. Navy, told The Independent. “But I also don’t think Schumer will use the building to increase discretionary spending.”
Asked why he voted on the bill earlier but voted against it last week, Mr Scott said: “We don’t have a chance. Chuck Schumer doesn’t allow changes.”
Eric Golnick, a veteran voting on Capitol Hill, said the most important thing is to make sure people get the care they need.
“I care about my friends getting the help they need, not just them but their families getting survivor benefits when they end up dying of these incurable cancers,” he told independent. “They were actually taken care of. So the real outrage came from making sure this should have been done years ago.”