Democrats tried to ‘spin’ $400 billion in funding from veterans health care bill
A bill to expand health care access for military veterans who have fallen ill from exposure to toxic burning stoves has been stalled due to efforts by Democrats’ desire “to go on a frenzy $400 billion in unreported spending,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Driving the news: Toomey joined other Republican lawmakers this week in voting against advancing the bill, known as the PACT Act.
- “The PACT Act as written includes a fiscal gimmick that would shift $400 billion of current statutory spending from the discretionary spending category to the mandatory spending category. This provision is completely unnecessary to achieve the stated purpose. of the PACT Act to expand health care and other benefits for veterans,” Toomey said in a statement last week.
- Comedian Jon Stewart slammed Republican lawmakers who voted against the measure for their “casual cruelty” during an appearance on CNN Thursday, calling Toomey by name and saying Toomey’s objections that part of the project’s funding of law could be used for unrelated purposes were “absolutely absurd”. .”
The big picture: “It’s the oldest thing in Washington. People take a nice bunch of Americans…make a bill to solve their problems, then sneak into something completely unrelated that they know they don’t. could ever pass on their own and Republicans dare to do anything about it,” Toomey said.
- Toomey stressed that Republicans were not opposed to the “substance” of the PACT Act.
- “What I’m trying to do is change a government accounting methodology designed to allow our fellow Democrats to embark on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree that has nothing to do with the veterans and will not be in the veterans space,” he added. of his desire to amend the bill, noting that other Republicans may have other amendments.
The other side: Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, followed Toomey on the “State of the Union,” explaining that the $400 billion fund that Republicans oppose is included in the bill to ensure that “all spending on this program is for veterans exposed to these toxins.” .”
- In a speech to the Senate earlier this week, Toomey introduced a proposed amendment to keep the $400 billion fund “in the category it’s always been in, the discretionary spending category.”
- McDonough added that Toomey’s amendment would impose an annual cap on spending and after 10 years the fund would “disappear”.
- “If his estimates are wrong on what we’ll spend in any given year, that means we may have to ration veterans care,” McDonough said.
- Toomey hit back at McDonough’s claims in a tweet later Sunday, writing that McDonough “is either misinformed of my proposed amendment or willfully dishonest.”
Stewart appeared on NBC”Meet the press“ Sunday to respond to criticism of the bill from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose comments echoed those of Toomey.
- “The difference between mandatory and discretionary…it’s just a salad of words he spits into his coffee cup on his way to god knows where,” Stewart said.
- “At some point we all have to live in reality. And what he says is factually incorrect,” he added.
- “The bill that Ted Cruz voted ‘yes’ on had the exact same funding provisions as the bill he voted ‘no’ on. It’s the exact same bill. makes sense.”