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.
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.
“We will do our best to make sure that justice is served and that these veterans get – not a right – but what they have earned and what this country must respect,” he told NBC.
Toomey’s opposition to the legislation centers on the accounting categorization of certain expenses in the bill, which he says would “allow our fellow Democrats to embark 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.”
In response to Toomey’s comments, Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, told CNN’s Jim Acosta Sunday night that Democrats weren’t firing “fast.”
“I disagree with his assessment, and I think the veterans who serve this country are quite important because they fight for our freedoms, and they make sure we’re safe,” said Test.
“And when it takes time to deal with them, we have to step in and do it. That’s the price of war,” he added.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
Sonnet Swire and CNN’s Sarah Fortinsky contributed to this report.