Proposed amendments by Republican senators to a bill aimed at aiding veterans exposed to toxic burn pits would result in “rationing of care for vets,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said on Sunday.
“I can’t in good conscience do that, because the outcome of that will be rationing of care for vets, which is something I just can’t sign up for,” McDonough told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) appeared on the show earlier Sunday morning to explain Republican opposition to the bill, which was blocked last week when it fell five votes short of the tally needed to bypass the filibuster.
All Democrats and eight Republicans backed the proposal, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) said Democrats will bring the bill forward a second time on Monday.
Republicans have accused their Democratic colleagues of a “budgetary trick” in the bill’s funding.
Toomey said Sunday that “to hide behind a veterans bill the opportunity to go on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree is wrong.”
But McDonough said the dollar amount Republicans are worried about isn’t a Trojan horse for the Democrats’ agenda.
“If you look at the bill for $400 billion that he’s talking about, you won’t see it. You would have to go deep in some — into some charts of the back of the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] report about — to find that. Why is that fund in the bill? The fund is in the bill so that we can ensure [that] all the spending for this program is for the veterans exposed to these toxins.”
GOP-backed amendments would put a year-on-year cap on spending and do away with the funding for veterans after 10 years.
“So the impact of that would be, if we — if his estimates are wrong about what we will spend in any given year, that means that we may have to ration care for veterans,” McDonough said.
“The CBO suggested, for one program we’re currently running, the MISSION Act, that we would be spending $14 billion a year less this year. So they’re $14 billion off. And that’s just four years out from their initial investment.”
Toomey is “asking us to take their word for it in eight or 10 years,” the secretary said. “I can’t in good conscience do that, because the outcome of that will be rationing of care for vets, which is something I just can’t sign up for.”