PACT Act: VA secretary says Republican-backed amendments to fire pit legislation would lead to ‘care rationing for vets’

McDonough told CNN’s Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union’ that an amendment proposed by Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey would put ‘a year-over-year cap’ on what the VA can spending to care for veterans suffering from exposure to burn pits and ending the fund after 10 years, telling Tapper: “I cannot in good conscience do this because the result of this will be rationing care for vets, which I just can’t sign.”

“This has been President Biden’s No. 1 priority,” McDonough said, touting the executive action steps the Biden administration has already taken to remove the burden of proof for veterans seeking care for a toxic exposure. “I guess what I would say is that these people have waited long enough. Let’s do it, and let’s also not be for a proposal that imposes artificial caps year by year, and then functionally, at the end of these 10 years, wipes out that fund. Let’s not buy into that, because at the end of the day, the risk will be to ration veterans’ care.

On Saturday, McDonough visited people protesting at the Capitol in support of the legislation, delivering pizza to the group, which pledged to stay overnight. President Joe Bidenwho remains in solitary confinement at the White House after again tested positive for Covid-19 Saturday, told the group via a FaceTime call, “I’ll tell you what, as long as I have a breath in me, I’m going to fight to make it happen – as long as I have a breath in me.”

The Pennsylvania Republican accused Democrats of trying to “sneak into something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own” while reiterating that he and his fellow Republicans are “not opposed ” to the fundamental provisions of the bill.

“[Democrats] know they’ll unleash their allies in the media and maybe some pseudo-celebrity to make up false accusations to try to suck us into what shouldn’t be there,” Toomey said in an apparent reference to comedian Jon Stewarta longtime advocate for victims of exposure to toxic combustion fireplaces who has been vocal since the procedural vote failed.
Jon Stewart and Democrats rail against stalled fireplace legislation:

Toomey’s opposition to the bill focuses on the accounting categorization of certain expenses in the bill, which he says would “allow our fellow Democrats to go on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree. “. He said he wanted a vote on his amendment to change the categorization of expenses before agreeing to the bill going to a vote.

“We’re spending way too much money to use — to hide behind a veterans bill, the opportunity to go on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree is a mistake,” Toomey said. “And we shouldn’t allow it.”

When pressed on the text of the legislation that says allocated money must be spent on health care for veterans who have been injured as a result of exposure to a toxic burn pit, Toomey said. rejected this interpretation of the bill.

“That’s why they do this stuff,” said Toomey, who is not running for office this year. “Because it gets very deep in the weeds and very confusing for people very quickly. It’s not really about veterans’ expenses. It’s about what category of government accounting they place veterans’ expenses in. Veterans.”

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