Toomey Defends Delay Of Veterans Health Bill Says He Will Back It If Amendment Passes
He explained why he blocked the passage of the the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which aims to expand health care access to veterans exposed to burn pits.
Sen. Pat Toomey speaks during a Senate hearing. | Pool photo by Tom Williams
07/31/2022 12:22 PM EDT
Sen. Pat Toomey on Sunday defended his decision and that of his Republican colleagues last week to block the passage of a bill that aims to expand health care access to veterans exposed to burn pits.
The bill the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act was approved in the Senate in June by a vote of 84-14. It went back to the Senate again for a procedural vote last week and was expected to pass with its broad bipartisan support.
In a surprise effort, Republicans blocked the legislation. Toomey said he wanted to amend the bill to make technical changes in terms of the accounting of VA funds. That vote drew criticism from Democrats and veterans groups, as well as comedian Jon Stewart, who has made the passage of the legislation a special cause of his.
Defending his actions Sunday, Toomey said hes working to amend the bill in a way that would not change by one penny any spending on any veterans program, he told CNNs Jake Tapper on State of the Union.
He added that if his amendment passes, he will vote for the bill.
On the same CNN program, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said Toomeys delaying action was unnecessary.
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/11 First Responder Bill Vote Expected Next Week
Now that Republicans are no longer bound to their pledge to avoid voting on anything except issues of taxes and funding, some GOP senators are considering voting in favor of the 9/11 measure.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois has said he supports the bill. That leaves Democrats one vote short, putting all eyes on three Republican Senators who have hinted that they could support the bill Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The sticking point for the GOP Senators is finding a different way to offset the costs of the $7.4 billion measure. Sen. Collins said Thursday night that she will back the bill assuming it includes the “appropriate offsets.”
“I support the 9/11 health bill on the merits, and I have talked with Sen. Gillibrand about the need for legitimate ways of offsetting its cost, unlike those included in the House-passed bill,” Collins said in a statement. “If the Majority Leader were to bring the bill to the floor with appropriate offsets, I would support the legislation.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is hoping for “a Christmas miracle.”
“I urge my Republican colleagues to end the filibuster, engage in an open and respectful debate, and let each senator decide for themselves whether the heroes and victims of September 11th deserve quality health treatment and appropriate compensation for their tremendous loss and sacrifice. The 9/11 heroes deserve an up or down vote,” Gillibrand said.
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Biden wants some prime time
President Joe Biden plans to deliver a prime-time speech this week about how Americas rights and freedoms are still under attack, returning to the core message of his 2020 campaign as Americans are getting ready to vote in the . A White House official said Thursdays address at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia would focus on the continued battle for the soul of the nation and show how the president sees the central argument of his 2020 candidacy remains as salient as ever with the midterm elections coming into clearer focus.
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Mcconnell Poised To Give Jon Stewart What He Wants
Jon Stewart has been on a warpath for the bill to help 9/11 responders, many of whom suffer from cancer and other health ailments. | M. Scott Mahaskey
By Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim
12/11/2015 02:17 PM EST
12/11/2015 03:53 PM EST
After weeks of withering criticism from comedian Jon Stewart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell guaranteed on Friday that a health care bill for 9/11 first responders will be included in a must-pass, year-end spending deal.
Stewart has barnstormed Capitol Hill and blanketed the media, including his old show this week, in an all-out lobbying campaign for the roughly $8 billion measure.
In an interview with POLITICO on Friday, McConnell shrugged off the negative attention hes attracted over the expiration of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. But the Senate leader said unequivocally that the legislation viewed as critical to caring for first responders will be approved by the end of the year.
Everybodys for it. Its going to be included, McConnell said.
The 9/11 responders plan is wrapped up in negotiations over a massive spending package and expiring tax breaks. McConnell said Congress will not leave for the holidays until a deal is reached. The Senate and House this week passed a five-day funding extension, pushing the deadline to clinch an agreement to the middle of next week.
Were certainly going to finish, both that and the tax bill, McConnell said. All of those discussions are continuing.
Trump Calls For Mcconnell To Be Replaced Immediately As Spat Between Gop Leaders Widens
The bill, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act , is designed to address the inability of veterans to access healthcare as they reported a range of illnesses. It now goes to President Joe Biden for signing.
The military has used burn pits to incinerate waste, hazardous material and jet fuel, but troops that have breathed toxic fumes have suffered respiratory illnesses and cancers. President Joe Biden has suggested that the brain cancer that killed his son, Beau, may have been linked to his exposure to burn pits when he served in Iraq and Kosovo.
Last week, when the legislation failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate, Stewart chided Republican lawmakers who voted against it. On Thursday, he appeared with one of the bills chief sponsors, Sen. Jon Tester and other lawmakers, telling reporters, Aint this a bitch? Americas heroes, who fought in our wars, outside sweating their asses off, while these mother-fers sit in the air conditioning, walled off from any of it.
But the attention that Stewart drew to the Senates failure to pass the legislation may have had the desired effect of getting under lawmakers skins. On CNN, Toomey tried to dismiss Stewart as a pseudo-celebrity who tried to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldnt be there.
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Peltola Beats Palin Wins Alaska House Special Election
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., topped a group of at least eight Republicans who have encouraged constituents to apply in recent days. The others included Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. Greg Pence, R-Ind. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas Troy Balderson, R-Ohio and Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio.
The Congresswoman is using her platform to inform her constituents of federal funds and resources available to them, Stefanik spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said. She did not claim to support the bill in the tweet, and her constituents deserve to know about federal programs they can apply for regardless of how she votes.
Wicker’s office noted that he voted against the full package, but led efforts to ensure the restaurant relief was included.
Sen. Wicker co-authored the amendment that successfully added the Restaurant provision to the reconciliation bill. Why wouldnt he want to encourage participation? Wicker spokesman Phillip Waller said.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition acknowledged the Republican’s awkward position, but offered its thanks anyway.
Senator Wicker did not vote for the package , but his work on the RESTAURANTS Act from the beginning made the relief fund possible, the industry group tweeted. We are grateful for that work.
And White House spokesman Andrew Bates sarcastically expressed appreciation for the Republicans who have begun to tout elements of Bidens stimulus.
The Bill Would Expand Health
The House on Thursday passed a bill that would expand health-care eligibility for veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill, which could provide health coverage for up to 3.5 million veterans, was passed on a vote of 256 to 174, with 34 Republicans joining all Democrats. The bill is known as the Honoring our PACT Act, the acronym denoting Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics.
The U.S. military used burn pits throughout Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste, medical and hazardous materials, and jet fuel, exposing veterans to toxins that have caused long-lasting medical problems. Veterans who have been exposed often face difficult disability benefit claims processes with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get necessary health care.
Republicans who voted in opposition argued that the measure, which has a $300 billion price tag over 10 years, would add too much to the countrys deficit and exacerbate backlogs at VA.
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks a physician, a 24-year military veteran and a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee argued against the House bill on the floor, saying the Senates version, which is narrower in scope, is a more responsible measure.
We are not doing right by our veterans by being fiscally irresponsible in their name. And I say that as a veteran myself, Miller-Meeks said.
Jada Yuan in New York contributed to this report.
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Congressional Voting Record On Effort To Pass Original Law And On Reauthorization
Original Law 2010
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was originally passed by Congress in 2010.
In the House of Representatives there were three floor votes at that time. The first attempt at House Passage on July 29, 2010, was an attempt to achieve passage using an expedited procedure called Suspension of the Rules that requires an affirmative two-thirds vote for passage and is used by the House to bring up for a vote non-controversial legislation.
While the vote was 255-159 in favor, the bill failed to get the required two-thirds affirmative vote of those present and was not passed.
The second attempt at House Passage was successful, using regular House procedures, the same bill that failed to pass in July was brought before the House on September 29, 2010 and passed and sent to the Senate with an overwhelming majority 268-160 .
In the U.S. Senate there was only one vote on the legislation that year and that was on December 9, 2010. The vote was on procedural motion to break a filibuster against the bill and to invoke cloture to allow the bill to be brought up for debate. The vote was 57-42. and it failed to obtain the required 60 votes to break the filibuster and allow the legislation to be brought up for debate on the Senate Floor.
Sponsors of 2015 Reauthorization Effort
Fbi Dir Wray Calls Capitol Riot ‘an Affront To The Rule Of Law’ During House Hearing
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in a statement that he had voted for previous legislation honoring first responders but that he voted against the new bill because Democrats were playing “political games” by quietly including Evans in the measure.
“Officer William ‘Billy’ Evans was killed and Officer Kenneth Shaver was injured by a man obsessed with the Nation of Islam,” Roy said.
“Because this incident does not fit into the left’s narrative, the Democrats and media have been silent about this attack. I will always back the blue and recognize the bravery of law enforcement they are true American heroes. I will however, not condone this obvious political maneuver by the Democrats.”
Companion legislation was also unveiled in the Senate by Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
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Republicans Who Voted Against Juneteenth And Awarding Gold Medals To Capitol Police
- Andy Biggs, Arizona
- Chip Roy, Texas
On Wednesday, Biggs tweeted two videos explaining his reasons for opposing the bills.
With regard to voting against awarding congressional gold medals to the January 6 officers, Biggs said that while he supports the police, the bill itself was “a manipulation” by the Democrats.
“I just can’t understand the hypocrisy of the Left who want to get rid of the police, and then try to cover their tracks with this phoney bologna bill.
“I believe that there are certain officers that deserve medals that acted so meticulously on January 6, if we could do a clean piece of legislation that could support that, instead of having a catchy title so you can bash people because of the title of the bill.”
Biggs was referring to the defund the police movement, which is aimed at reallocating money given to law enforcement departments to other areas such as social and community-based projects. It doesn’t specifically aim to get rid of police departments.
“But, they’ve weaponized this bill like they’ve weaponized everything else,” Biggs added. “I support the celebration of Juneteenth, I think that is a critical part of our nation’s history.
Republicans To 9/11 Responders: Drop Dead
In July Republicanstried to block House passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. They voted the bill down-with 155 of 159 nays being Republicans. The bill was later passed in a different form to the Senate, where it was defeated today by a Republican-led filibuster.
The bill, named after a deceased NYPD detective who worked in Lower Manhattan’s toxic atmosphere after 9/11, would provide free health care to those first responders and survivors exposed to toxic ash after the Twin Towers fell. Republicans have called the bill’s $7.4 billion price tag too high.
Beyond the cost of the bill-a tenth of what the Iraq War has cost the country thus far-Republicans have also reiterated that no legislation will be considered in Congress until President Obama and Democrats cave on Bush-era tax cut extensions.
The Republicans’ message to 9/11 responders and victims is clear: we will not help you until we get our way on tax cuts that will end up benefiting this country’s richest citizens. You are lower on the totem pole of our concerns than rich Americans. Fifty-seven senators may have wanted to vote for cloture to bring the bill to debate, but we have resolutely mounted a Congressional offensive against your bill because there are still rich Americans out there fearful of the amount of taxes they will have to pay come April 15.
Blindsided Veterans Erupt In Fury After Senate Gop Tanks Toxic Burn Pit Bill
Blindsided veterans erupted in anger and indignation Thursday after Senate Republicans suddenly tanked a widely supported bipartisan measure that would have expanded medical coverage for millions of combatants exposed to toxic burn pits during their service.
Supporters of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act or PACT Act overwhelmingly expected the House-passed bill to sail through to the president’s desk for signature.
But in a move that shocked and confused veteran groups Wednesday night, 41 Senate Republicans blocked the bill’s passage, including 25 who had supported it a month ago.
“We really expected yesterday to be a procedural vote that would go with easy passage,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit veterans organization. “That was the absolute expectation.”
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Stewart has been on a warpath for the bill to help 9/11 responders, many of whom suffer from cancer and other health ailments. On Monday, he returned to The Daily Show and singled out McConnell, accusing him of caring about little other than politics after Democrats posited that the GOP leader was using the Sept. 11 legislation as a bargaining chip on a transportation bill.
So far, he has been an enormous obstacle, unwilling to move the bill forward for purely political reasons, Stewart said. Hes not nice.
McConnells office said the Republican leader always intended to back the bill, regardless of Stewart.
Earlier this month, Stewart and a group of first responders confronted senators and top congressional aides over the issue. Senior McConnell staffers have been frequently engaged with those first responders over the matter.
Asked whether Stewarts advocacy has been productive, McConnell said Congress always planned to address a victims compensation fund thats expected to expire next year as well as the World Trade Center Health Program, which expired in October.
Earlier this week, McConnell said it was not true to say that hed personally advocated to remove the provision and that more work needed to be done to the health care bill. He said he supported the measure.
Everybody was for it. This is a worthwhile cause and well take care of it, McConnell said in the interview.
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Why Did Ted Cruz And Mike Lee Vote Against Clean Water
The US Senate did some authentic bipartisanship yesterday, passing a $35 billion bill that will upgrade states’ drinking water systems. The bill, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, passed on a great big 89 to 2 vote, with just two senators, Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah voting against it.
The bill’s lead authors were Sens. Tom Carper and Shelley Moore-Capito , and it was co-sponsored by a load of other senators from both parties. On Twitter, Carper said the bill would“foster economic growth, build climate-resilient infrastructure, and help ensure that all Americans have access to clean, safe water.” That’s nice! Sure have to wonder why Mike Lee and Ted Cruz aren’t in favor of that!
In a bipartisan statement, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee invoked disasters like the Flint water crisis and the recent winter storm in Texas, which left millons without drinking water.
Millions of Americans do not have consistent access to clean drinking water. Many more live in areas where a single storm or natural disaster could devastate weak and archaic infrastructure, leading to an outright catastrophe.
That sure sounds like the sort of thing a senator from Texas would want to make sure doesn’t happen again.
Poor Marco! He sputtered,