Alabama senators defended a ‘no’ vote on the ‘burn pit’ health care bill for veterans

The two Alabama Republican senators this week defend their votes against the largest expansion of veterans’ health benefits in more than 30 years, with Alabama being one of only three states that see the two senators oppose the measure.

The measure was passed by the US Senate by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday. But Alabama Senators Tommy Tuberville and Richard Shelby opposed the bill and, in statements to the media, claimed to be pro-Veteran members and criticized so-called “burn-pit” legislation as a costly, ill-advised, discretionary solution to a “liberal wish list”.

legislation, Approved by 86-11 votes in the SenateOver the next decade, $280 billion will be allocated to treat veterans suffering from illnesses associated with exposure to toxic substances from burning garbage pits on military bases.

Democrats and other critics believe that Republicans who voted against the measure were playing politics with veterans’ health in retaliation for an unrelated deal by Senate Democrats to get approval for a massive climate change measure.

More than 60 veteran organizations, including VFW and the American Legion, supported the procedure.

“Their votes are a slap in the face for sick veterans who need health care now,” said Devin Kinnamer, deputy executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party. “Shelby and Tuberville pretend to love veterans—and are happy to send them to war, but when it comes to providing the health care they really need after we’ve sent them into harm’s way, they have turned their backs on those who served us.”

A rare split in Congress

The vote on the legislation also represents a rare split on a major issue among Alabama Republicans. While Tuberville and Shelby voted against “honoring the PACT Act of 2022,” three Republican House members — Representatives Robert Aderholt of Haleyville, Jerry Carl of Mobile and Barry Moore of Enterprise — voted to support a similar measure that passed the US House of Representatives last month. . He also voted for Alabama, the only Democrat, Terry Sewell of Birmingham.

Alabama Republican Representatives Gary Palmer of Hoover, Moe Brooks of Huntsville, and Mike Rogers of Sachs voted against it.

Alabama Republicans who voted for this measure are not openly critical of their Senate counterparts.

Jerry Carl

U.S. Representative Jerry Carle, R-Mobile, speaks with attendees during a mobile room breakfast on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, at the Battlehouse Renaissance Hotel & Spa in downtown Mobile, Ala. (John Sharp/ .

“They have reasons to vote the way they did,” Karl said. “I can only answer for myself.”

Carl, after appearing on mobile on Wednesday, said the potentially high costs of the measure make it “a tough bill for me to vote for” when it comes to the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives voted 342 to 88 to support the measure on July 13.

tuberville, In last month’s editorialHe criticized the legislation for being “widely drafted without cost offsets” and predicted it would cost Americans at least “a trillion dollars in the long run.”

“It’s open about its cost, and I think that’s why you’ve seen as many negative votes as I did,” Karl said. “Nobody doesn’t want to support[expanding veterans’ health care benefits]. But in Washington, when it’s open, it gets very creative in explaining who wants to spend the money.”

Tuberville also said he believed the legislation would lead to long waits for sick veterans to receive medical care at veterans’ hospitals, prevent veterans with toxic burn diseases from receiving care at a local non-VA hospital, and prioritize union workers. Approximately 80% of the VA workforce are employees of the negotiating unit.

“We could have done this a lot better… it could have been a lot better for the veterans,” said Tuberville. “This place (Washington, D.C.) doesn’t do much other than throw money at a problem and hope it works.”

Karl said he wished the House had waited until January, after the November elections, to vote. He said he expected Republicans to win a majority in the House of Representatives after the midterm elections.

“They (Republicans) would have written it down and made it better,” Karl said, but added that “there was no way I would vote against it.”

Inverted sounds? Not Alabama

Jon Stewart

Activist Jon Stewart joins veterans, military family members and advocates as they call on Senate Republicans to change their vote on a bill designed to help millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service, at the Washington Capitol, on Monday, August. 1, 2022 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)AP

Republicans were in trouble after voting against the legislation on July 27, then Severe criticism by former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewartand photos of angry veterans camping outside the Capitol. The July 27 vote was 55 to 42 for the PACT Act. Sixty votes were needed to pass the legislation.

Republicans, led by Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Tommy, complained last week about its rising costs and claimed Democrats had introduced a provision to reclassify $400 billion in spending from discretionary to mandatory.

The July 27 vote was to roll back 84 votes to 14 to pass the scorching bill in June. Shelby and Tuberville also voted against the measure at the time.

Shelby, in a statement, argued that the PACT Act could create spending opportunities on unrelated matters. Democrats disputed these claims, saying the money would only be spent on veterans.

A Shelby spokeswoman said the senator had no issues with the substance of what the bill would do for veterans. The spokeswoman said his only concern was “a way to circumvent the budget.”

“Throughout my career, I’ve been a strong advocate for veterans,” Shelby tweeted late Tuesday, saying the legislation would reclassify “nearly $400 billion in (Veterans Administration) funding” and allow the Democratic Party “to spend that on Liberals. Wish List.”

Democrats and veterans argued that most Republicans who voted against the package on July 27 were doing so in retaliation for a deal Democrats struck in the Senate on massive climate change, health care and a tax policy law.

Phil Brown, director of the Research Institute for Social Sciences and Environmental Health at Northeastern University in Boston, said he believed the GOP’s concerns about the cost of the bill were “essentially an excuse.” He said the real reason they voted “no” was “they didn’t like the fact that the Democrats were winning.”

“Veterans were demonstrating in Washington and the media coverage of (Texas Senator) Ted Cruz’s fist shocking people after this law was killed was really bad press,” Brown said, referring to the July 27 Senate vote. “It was interesting to see how quickly that turned out.”

In fact, Cruz flipped on Tuesday, as did a great many Republicans. But Tuberville and Shelby did not.

Only three states saw senators vote against legislation that would expand Medicare eligibility to an estimated 3.5 million veterans. Apart from Alabama, senators from Idaho and Utah have joined the opposition.

Alabama, on a per capita basis, has more veterans than Idaho and Utah. An estimated 377,000 veterans live in the state, more than the number of veterans living in Idaho and Utah combined.

“I definitely think Republicans, including the Alabama Republicans, have been mistreated by their opposition given the clear protests from veterans groups,” said Regina Wagner, associate professor of political science at the University of Alabama.

Democrats reverse. Sewell, in a statement to AL.comShe said she was “disappointed” in her fellow Republicans and accused them of playing “political games with the health and welfare of veterans.”

Will Boyd, the Democratic candidate for the US Senate who faces an uphill battle against Republican Katie Brett, said he would “fully support” similar health care legislation for veterans if elected.

A BRIT campaign representative did not respond to requests for comment.

“There is no reason why men and women who chose to risk their lives for our country and their freedoms should not receive the treatment they so desperately need,” Boyd said. “As a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in a state of more than 377,000 veterans, I fully support this measure and any other legislation that provides additional, high-quality health care to veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances during their service.”

Tuberville and Veterans

American politics, health and viruses

Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville questions witnesses during a Senate Health, Education, Work, and Pensions Committee hearing examining the federal response to Covid-19 and new emerging variables on January 11, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sean Thew/Pool/AFP) (Photo by SHAWN THEW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)POOL / AFP via Getty Images

During much of the 2020 Senate campaign, Toberville was promoting veterans to support his candidacy. This issue was also one of the few that nearly got him into hot water during the Republican primary.

In August 2019, Tuberville famously said he was “angry” at then-President Donald Trump over the state of VA facilities across the country. Tuberville campaign ads were criticized for criticizing the former president, who was popular in Alabama.

Tuberville He later said he wanted to meet Trump He discussed concerns about what he said were difficulties among Alabama veterans to access the Virginia facility.

“Veterans are my number one priority,” he said during the campaign, then pledged to give a portion of his Senate salary to veterans’ groups. he is too He vowed to appear on radio talk shows to give a portion of his Senate salary to a widow of veterans.although that hasn’t happened yet.

Tuberville Pro Veterans Foundation, Ahead of the 2020 Election, It was also the subject of scrutiny After it was revealed that less than a third of the money raised went to veterans’ groups.

A Tuberville spokeswoman said the senator continues to make “significant donations” to his foundation, which has been taking “appropriate steps to hand over management of the foundation to a board and abstract authority to award awards to the veterans organization.”

The spokeswoman added that Tuberville understood that “the board is in the process of evaluating the nominees with a view to awarding the awards this fall.”

The Tuberville office has provided a list of bills the first-term senator has worked on related to veterans care since taking office in early 2021. One bill increases the maximum life insurance coverage from $400,000 to $500,000 under Service Member Group Life Insurance (SGLI). )) and Veterans Life Insurance (VGLI) programs. This will be the first increase in the coverage ceiling for either plan since 2005.

Another bill being promoted by the Tuberville office would modify the language used on official Department of Defense and Defense Department forms to clarify information required when a service member chooses to convert their GI Bill benefit into a dependent.

The senator’s office also says Tuberville supports federal legislation to allow hyperbaric oxygen therapies as a treatment option for veterans suffering from PTSD and other brain injuries. It also supports legislation that allows families of deceased combatants and their beneficiaries to recover defrauded dollars.

Alabama political watchers do not believe that Tuberville, or any other Alabama lawmaker voting against PACT, will face a political backlash.

“In terms of the political ramifications, the stakes are practically zero,” said Stephen Taylor, a professor of political science at Troy University. “The prospects for changing any individual issue in the voter base are nonexistent.”

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