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Fact Check: Are Senate Republicans Really 'Blocking' Healthcare for Veterans?

You've likely heard something about those nasty, awful Senate Republicans blocking a veterans' healthcare bill.  Comedian, activist, and under-informed scold Jon Stewart has been screaming about it to anyone who will listen -- and Democrats are indignantly attacking the GOP over it, generating dutifully partisan news coverage.  The tendentious, one-sided, lacking-in-context story goes like this: There's a bipartisan bill to fund needed care for US military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in war zones, but out of a sudden fit of pique and partisan pettiness, Republicans have decided to obstruct the funding.  The resulting outcry entails the familiar claim that the GOP has 'blood on its hands,' which is how basically all of their stances are assailed by all the usual suspects.

But as anyone with a few functioning brain cells might have been able to deduce, there's more to the story.  Republicans did not abruptly decide that they despite veterans and want them to suffer and die.  What they actually oppose is an easily-fixable poison pill embedded in the bill, regarding a large pot of money that has nothing to do with the widely-supported and agreed-upon cash for veterans.  Whether it was a drafting error or a deliberate "mistake," the legislation transforms an entirely separate tranche of nearly $400 billion into mandatory spending.  Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, has been calmly explaining the situation for days:


"We can easily fix this tonight, he tweeted on July 27th, "and there is no reason we cannot do so NOW. This simple fix would not reduce spending on veterans in the underlying bill by a single penny. It's wrong to use a veterans bill to hide an unrelated slush fund."  Since the Biden administration joined the smear campaign, Toomey is ratcheting up his pushback:


One would think that a guy like Jon Stewart would be smart and savvy enough to grasp the situation.  He could use his platform and clout to pressure and shame his fellow Democrats into making the needed ancillary tweak, in order to secure this important win for veterans and their families.  That's what he says is his priority, after all.  Instead, he's spreading misinformation and targeting Republicans with conniption fits, as if Toomey's point doesn't exist.  And he's just wrong on the facts, as a nonpartisan budget wonk has confirmed:

It's quite a game the Left and their journalist collaborators play.  If it were Republicans playing games with a non-germane political grab that induced Democrats to stall an urgent and important bill that would otherwise pass easily, the blame would lie with the cynical Republicans.  They'd be roundly denounced for sliming their opponents and questioning Democrats' patriotism, based on an unfair attack.  But it's Democrats doing the game-playing and sliming, and thus the blame is said to lie with...the cynical, unpatriotic, veteran-hating Republicans.  As a rule of thumb in the unofficial collective style book of modern American journalism, it's always Republicans' fault.  Coverage and standards are shifted accordingly.

What Democrats and their chorus of allies will argue in this case is that dozens of Senate Republicans agreed to the flawed, 'slush fund' version of the bill earlier in the summer (Toomey, to his credit, was objecting all along).  That is true.  What's also true is that once Senate Republicans recognized that they'd get another bite at the apple, with an opportunity to rectify the error, they struck a deal with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who agreed to allow an amendment to address this dispute (I'll note that $400 billion is not chump change, especially in an age of raging inflation and an out-of-control national debt).  Schumer lied to them:


Why, it's almost as if Schumer, who is an untrustworthy character, saw an opportunity to embarrass Republicans by abandoning a good-faith agreement.  So he broke his word and jammed them, knowing that he'd either get almost $400 billion in a new mandatory spending boondoggle -- or he'd help garner lots of negative headlines for Republicans from a compliant, activist press.  His calculation was correct, albeit not overly impressive.  Democrats often count on biased and/or lazy journalists' collusion on such things.  I'll leave you with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn indicating that he believes this issue will be resolved by the end of this week (update -- he's apparently not the only one): 


If the people purporting to be passionately in favor of helping veterans actually mean it, they'll demand that Schumer un-break his word, allow the planned amendment votes, then get the underlying legislation passed in lopsided bipartisan fashion.  I'll leave you with my comments on this matter from Fox News Sunday:


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