Editorial: Vote against veterans is ‘unconscionable’


A recent editorial by the Sandusky Register:

Like advocates, we’re simply flabbergasted by the vote on Wednesday to kill the benefits package for veterans who are sick and dying from toxic exposure.

The U.S. House approved the bill — which would fund healthcare for veterans who become ill and provide survivor benefits to families of veterans who die from service-related diseases — earlier this month. The Senate, however, voted it down by a 55-42 vote after giving it overwhelming support in June.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan voted against veterans, as did U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Neither provided a response to questions about their votes against the bill, although a spokesman for Jordan expressed frustration with Jordan being questioned about it, without explanation.

That spokesman, Russell Dye, previously said Jordan’s “no” vote was because the bill’s funding mechanism was a Democrat Party “gimmick,” but neither he nor Jordan would explain that or expound upon that claim and Jordan offered no alternative plan.

Funding healthcare for veterans is not a liberal or a conservative, or a Democratic or Republican party issue; it’s an American responsibility. As U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has repeatedly said, paying for it is “the cost of war.”

There’s speculation the Senate could vote again — soon — and still get the Heath Robinson PACT Act approved before summer recess next week, or later this year. But that just isn’t acceptable, according to Susan Zeier, a veterans advocate from Sandusky. She’s also the mother-in-law of the bill’s namesake, an Ohio National Guardsman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and died in May 2020 from illnesses associated with his military service.

“They voted no,” said Zeier, who spent Thursday overnight on the steps of the U.S. Capitol protesting the Republicans who voted down the benefits package. “They voted against my family. They are endorsing our suffering.”

Comedian Jon Stewart, a veterans advocate who attended a Thursday news conference at the Capitol building with Zeier and other advocates, explained the difference between how Jordan, Portman and other members of Congress experience the passage of time and how veterans and their families experience it.

“They say, ‘This’ll get (passed),’” Stewart said. “‘Maybe after we get back from summer recess, maybe during the lame duck.’ Because they’re on Senate time. (Veterans) aren’t on Senate time. They’re on human time. Cancer time.”

The vote against funding veterans’ benefits was a terrible blow and an unexpected development, he said.

“(Veterans) lived up to their oath. And yesterday, (senators) spit on it in abject cruelty.”

We support Zeier, Stewart, Burn Pits 360 co-founder Rosie Torres and all the other advocates demanding immediate action, demanding an immediate vote. We support Sen. Brown and the senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, John Tester, D-Montana, and others in Congress who are asking for a re-vote now.

To fail to do that, in Sen. Brown’s words, would be simply “unconscionable.”

Roll call

These 25 Republican senators who voted for the bill on June 16, but voted against cloture on July 27:

John Barrasso, R-Wyoming; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Mike Braun, R-Indiana; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas; Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska; Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee; Josh Hawley, R-Missouri; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi; Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma; Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin; John Kennedy, R-Louisiana; Roger Marshall, R-Kansas; Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska; Rick Scott, R-Florida; Tim Scott, R-South Carolina; Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; and Todd Young, R-Indiana

“We have to make sure these senators know they have sentenced these veterans to death.” — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

— Sandusky Register, July 30, 2022