Rand Paul says veteran toxic exposure bill ‘puts our economy at risk’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) railed against the economic impact of a veteran toxic exposure bill on the Senate floor on Tuesday, shortly before the chamber voted down his amendment to help offset the cost by reducing foreign aid.

“This bill puts our economy, though, at risk by creating presumptions of service connection for the most common ailments,” Paul said of the $278 billion bill, which would expand benefits for veterans who are suffering illnesses due to toxic exposures.

He noted the substantial number of Americans who have conditions like hypertension and asthma, which are both included in the bill, arguing the expanded coverage would lead to taxpayer dollars being used to treat veterans whose diagnoses were unrelated to their service.

“This bill would cost hundreds of billions of dollars at a time when the national debt is climbing over $30 trillion, and inflation is at a 40-year high,” he said.

“But the federal debt was created by Congress and not our vets, and those who served the armed services should not be the ones to pay the cost for government mismanagement,” Paul added.

Paul said his amendment, which failed 90-7, would create a 10-year moratorium on foreign assistance administered through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), except for funds designated for Israel.

Paul’s amendment was the first of three GOP amendments to be voted on with a 60-vote threshold before a final vote on the full bill. The other two amendments are from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

The amendment votes are part of a deal reached on Tuesday for the bill’s passage, which comes after a multi-day standoff that began when Republicans blocked the bill last week in a 55-42 vote.

Twenty-five Republicans who initially voted to advance the bill in June voted against the legislation last week, citing what they called a “budgetary gimmick.”

However, Democrats have pointed out many of the same GOP senators previously voted for the same bill, and have attributed the sudden opposition to Democrats moving forward with a separate spending deal on climate, health and taxes.

The standoff has sparked outrage from comedian Jon Stewart and the veteran community, with activists staging a sit-in on the Capitol steps since Thursday.