Senate Republicans cave, pass veterans’ health bill they blocked last week

Senate Republicans cave, pass veterans’ health bill they blocked last week

A week ago, Senate Republicans engaged in some of that famous “debate” the body remains so proud of by blocking a bill funding medical care for American veterans suffering from respiratory illness or cancer as a result of toxins they were exposed to during military operations.

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT, was focused on Iraq War veterans exposed to a wide range of toxins when overseeing the “burn pits” used to dispose of captured Iraqi regime weapons and chemical agents. It was wildly noncontroversial when the Senate passed it in June, 84 to 14, only for Republicans to turn against last Wednesday during a vote confirming a one-sentence technical correction after the bill’s House approval. The reason? Sen. Joe Manchin announced he had reached a deal on a reconciliation package with fellow Democrats, and Republicans got extremely mad about that. The reconciliation deal can’t be filibustered, but PACT can, and here we are.

Republicans got absolutely pilloried in the press for this temper tantrum, which transparently harmed sick veterans in service of making an impossible-to-even-explain partisan point about something unrelated, and almost immediately backtracked to promise that no, this was just a temporary act of spite, actually they still want to vote for the veterans’ bill and will super-definitely do that if Democrats bring it up for another vote.

That brings us to this afternoon. Senate Republicans have, in their infinite deliberative wisdom, sheepishly caved, voting to adopt the same measure with no changes. A week of tantruming against sick veterans was, the senators determined, long enough to make the point that, uh, Joe Manchin should not be supporting things. Or Sen. Chuck Schumer shouldn’t be letting him support things. Or something. This is the closest to “debating” something the Senate usually gets.

It goes without saying that the Republicans who voted against the veterans out of unrelated spite thought that torpedoing veterans’ medical care was a good trade to make, in order to have their little snit. You’ll have to ask them to explain that one for themselves, but the talking point the caucus appears to have decided on after they got caught flatfooted by the intensity of the fury against them, last week, is that it was always meant to be a temporary snit. Just a little bit of sabotage at someone else’s expense.

Which, for Republicans in the U.S. Senate, is just your average weekday.

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