Oh, this is perfect. Immediately before they voted against health care for veterans affected by toxic exposure during their service, several Senate Republicans tweeted about how excited they were to join the USO to assemble care packages for members of the military.
Sens. Rick Scott, Mitt Romney, and Cindy Hyde-Smith all made care packages for the military for at least long enough for a photo op, then tweeted about how grateful they were for the opportunity, and how much they support the troops. Then they went and voted against the PACT Act, a bill that had passed the Senate 84-14 just weeks ago before coming back this week for a minor tweak. The PACT Act extends health coverage for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers potentially caused by burn pits where millions of veterans were exposed to those toxins.
Twenty-five Republican senators switched their votes on what was supposed to be a noncontroversial procedural fix.
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Republicans shifted against the PACT Act because Democrats announced a plan for a completely unrelated bill: the reconciliation deal with Sen. Joe Manchin to invest in clean energy and health care while raising some corporate taxes. That’s what it took for them to go from being so grateful to the USO for the opportunity to assemble care packages for service members to voting to deny health care to veterans for conditions related to their time in the military.
Comedian Jon Stewart, who has become a dedicated advocate for veterans, skewered Scott at a Thursday press conference.
“It’s beautiful,” Stewart said, dripping with sarcasm. “Did you get the package? I think it has M&M’s in it, and some cookies and some moist towelettes.”
“None of them care—except to tweet,” he added. “Boy, they’ll tweet it. Can’t wait to see what they come up with on Veterans Day, on Memorial Day. Well, this is the reality of it.”
“We’ve seen partisanship and games within Congress for years,” Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was quoted by NBC News. “But what is shocking is that so many senators would literally be willing to play with veterans’ lives so openly like this.
“They’re manufacturing reasons to vote against legislation that they literally voted for just last month,” Butler continued. “And so it’s really a new level of low.”
After they blocked the bill, some Senate Republicans celebrated with fist bumps and handshakes:
The PACT Act, if Republicans ever allow it to pass, will extend coverage to 3.5 million veterans.
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