Comedian-turned-progressive-activist Jon Stewart launched a profanity-laced tirade against Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and other Republicans over a healthcare bill that would provide care for veterans exposed to toxic fumes from burn pits.
“The Senate’s where accountability goes to die,” Stewart said. “These people don’t care. They’re never losing their jobs. They’re never losing their healthcare. Pat Toomey didn’t lose his job. He’s walking away. God knows what kind of pot of gold he’s stepping into to lobby this government to s**t on more people.”
But is that the real story?
No, says Toomey, who has repeatedly said he wants to support the PACT Act, but objects to Democrats using the legislation to create a $400 billion expense that would continue past the needs of the veterans it is designed to address.
“The PACT Act as written includes a budget gimmick that would allow $400 billion of current law spending to be moved from the discretionary to the mandatory spending category. This provision is completely unnecessary to achieve the PACT Act’s stated goal of expanding health care and other benefits for veterans,” Toomey said in a statement.
On July 11, Toomey said on the Senate floor the existing law requires the Veterans Administration to spend about $400 billion over the next 10 years on healthcare for veterans exposed to toxins during their service. The bill includes $280 billion in new spending. The $400 billion is discretionary spending, which has a cap.
The new legislation would put the $280 billion into the mandatory spending column, where it could live long after the veterans are cared for.
“What’s really outrageous is they take the $400 billion out of discretionary spending to mandatory spending,” Toomey said. “Why would they do that?”
“That way you create a big gaping hole in the discretionary spending category,” he said. “Which can be filled with another $400 billion of totally unrelated spending. Who knows on what?”
“We’ve got inflation that hitting a 40-year high. We’ve got a government that’s been spending billions of dollars, printing the money to spend, and everybody sees it every day, at the pump, at the grocery store, everywhere. And what this gimmick does is, it makes it possible to spend yet another $400 billion.”
Stewart remained unappeased.
“Patriot Pat Toomey stood on the floor and said, ‘This is a slush fund,’” said Stewart. “‘They’re gonna use $400 billion to spend on whatever they want.’ That’s nonsense. I call bulls**t. This isn’t a slush fund.”
Now Pennsylvania’s other Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, is also getting into the fray.
“This bill is essential to meet our obligations to fulfill our promise to them. These veterans already fulfilled their promise. They served their country in a war zone,” Casey said. “They could have been killed by combat fire. But even If they weren’t killed by combat fire they’re exposed to burn pits. We’ve got to provide them healthcare. If we don’t do this, what kind of a country are we?
“Who do we claim to be if we’re not going to do this? There are 14 members of the Senate who are against this. They’re holding up the bill because they don’t want to spend this money. It’s as simple as that.
“All we’ve got to do in the Senate is put our hand up. And say ‘yes.’ That’s pretty damn easy. Put your damn hand up,” Casey added.
Toomey’s spokesperson noted to Delaware Valley Journal, “This wasn’t even in the House committee version. This gimmick would allow for an additional $400 billion in future discretionary spending completely unrelated to veterans over the next 10 years.
“Sen. Toomey’s technical fix does not reduce spending on veterans by even $1 or affect the expansion of care and benefits in the underlying bill. All Sen. Toomey has asked for is that the legislation to spend $280 billion on an expansion of veterans benefits, all classified as mandatory and un-offset, does not also include a transfer of current law (non-PACT Act) spending to mandatory that would enable $400 billion of spending on things completely unrelated to veterans.”