Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tried to play partisan politics with the VA on the Senate floor, and was hammered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for voting against veterans.
Rubio was trying to get the Senate to vote, without a hearing on the bill that House passed yesterday relating to speeding up the firing process for VA employees. Sen. Rubio tried to turn this problem into an attack on President Obama, but Sen. Sanders responded by pointing out the real Republican record on supporting veterans.
Sen. Sanders’ office provided the media with an unofficial transcript of the exchange. (Sorry for the all caps, but this is a directly from the source transcript):
SEN. RUBIO: SO YESTERDAY WE ALL WATCHED WITH GREAT ATTENTION AS THE PRESIDENT ADDRESSED THIS ISSUE AND EXPRESSED OUTRAGE, RIGHTFULLY SO, AT WHAT’S OCCURRING. AND WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID IS THAT OVER THE NEXT WEEK THERE’S GOING TO BE AN INITIAL REPORT AND THEN ULTIMATELY A REPORT AT THE END OF THE MONTH ABOUT WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO IMPROVE THE SYSTEM AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. AND I THINK THAT’S CRITICAL HE HERE, BECAUSE ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE’RE LEARNING IS NOT SIMPLY THAT THERE’S A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM IN THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION, BUT THAT THERE’S BEEN A DELIBERATE EFFORT BY SOME WITHIN THE ADMINISTRATION, SOME WITHIN THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION TO COVER IT UP OR TO MAKE THINGS LOOK BETTER THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE. AND THAT SHOULD TROUBLE US EVEN MORE, BECAUSE THE IMMEDIATE REACTION WHEN AN AGENCY IS CONFRONTED WITH A PROBLEM SHOULD BE, WE NEED TO FIX THIS.
AND INSTEAD THE REACTION BY SOME SEEMS TO BE, WE NEED TO COVER THIS. WE NEED TO MAKE THIS LOOK BETTER THAN IT REALLY IS. WE NEED TO DIMINISH THIS. THAT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE AND PEOPLE NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO THIS. IF IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, AMONG THE MEN AND WOMEN THAT SERVE AND WORK HERE FOR, SOMEONE WAS DERELICTION IN THEIR DUTY, THEY WOULD LOSE THEIR JOBS. IF THE PRIVATE SECTOR SOMEONE DID NOT DO THEIR JOB, THEY WOULD LOSE THAT JOB.
MR. SANDERS: BUT THERE ARE VERY SERIOUS PROBLEMS IN TERMS OF ACCESS. THERE ARE SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH REGARD WAITING LISTS. THERE ARE SERIOUS PROBLEMS REGARDING THE POSSIBILITY OF HOSPITALS KEEPING TWO SETS OF BOOKS. AND WE’RE GOING TO GET TO THE ROOT OF THOSE ISSUES. BUT ONE THINGTHAT WE DO NOT WANT TO DO, MADAM PRESIDENT, IS POLITICIZE THE WELL-BEING OF AMERICA’S HEROES. LET ME QUOTE TO YOU FROM AN EDITORIAL IN “THE WASHINGTON POST” TODAY. “THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED THEIR COUNTRY IN UNIFORM DESERVE BETTER THAN DELAY OR DENIAL OF THE MEDICAL CARE THEY NEED AND HAVE EARNED. SO IT IS CRUCIAL TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT AT THE NATION’S VETERANS HOSPITALS. AMERICA’S VETERANS ALSO DESERVE NOT TO BE TREATED AS SO MANY PAWNS IN ELECTION-YEAR GAMESMANSHIP. BUT THAT SADLY IS APPROVING TO–BUT THAT SADLY IS PROVING TO BE THE CASE IN CONGRESS’S HYPERBOLIC RESPONSE. THAT THE EXTENT OF WRONGDOING IS UNCLEAR DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER MUCH TO THOSE MORE INTERESTED IN SCORING POLITICAL POINTS. HOW ELSE TO EXPLAIN THE KNEE-JERK CALLS, MAINLY BY REPUBLICANS IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE, FOR THE OUSTER OF VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY ERIC K. SHINSEKI OR THE ILL-ADVISED LEGISLATION AIMED AT V.A. WORKERS.”
I’M VERY HAPPY TO SEE THAT AS CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE. AND I WOULD SAY TO SENATOR RUBIO AND OTHERS THAT HE IS WELL-AWARE THAT THE VETERANS COMMUNITY FACES MANY, MANY SERIOUS PROBLEMS, ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT WE ARE HEARING IN THELAST FEW WEEKS WITH REGARD TO THE V.A. WE HAVE 200,000 MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE COME BACK FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, EITHER WITH PTSD OR T.B.I.U I WOULD ASSUME THAT MY FRIEND FROM FLORIDA ASSUMES WITH ME THAT THEY NEED TO GET THE QUALITY CARE THAT THEY DESERVE.
I WAS JUST — I JUST HAD THE PRIVILEGE, SENATOR RUBIO, OF BEING HONORED AN HOUR OR SO AGO BY THE GOLD-STAR WIVES. YOU KNOW THOSE ARE THE WIDOWS OF THOSE WHO DIED IN AFNTLE WE HAVE THE LEGISLATION WHICH I BROUGHT TO THE THE FLOOR WHICH RECEIVED 56 VOTES AND ONE SENATOR WAS ABSENT, WHICH WOULD HAVE GIVEN US 57 VOTES. BUT ONLY TWO REPUBLICANS SUPPORTED THAT BILL. THAT BILL WOULD MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR GOLD-STAR WIVES, WIVES WHO HAVE LOST THEIR HUSBANDS, TO BE ABLE TO GET A COLLEGE EDUCATION UNDER THE POST-9/11 G.I. BILL. I SUSPECT THAT SENATOR RUBIO AND MANY OTHERS SUPPORT THAT. THAT’S IN THE BILL THAT I BROUGHT TO THE FLOOR. WE HAVE RIGHT NOW, AS I’M SURE SENATOR RUBIO KNOWS, BECAUSE THE SENATOR EXISTS IN NEW YORK AND FLORIDA, WE HAVE 70-YEAR-OLD WOMEN, IN MOST CASES, WHO ARE TAKING CARE OF DISABLED VETS. THEY DON’T GET THE SUPPORT THAT THEY NEED. THEY’RE ON DUTY 24/7.
THEY SAVE THE GOVERNMENT MONEY BECAUSE THOSE WOUNDED VETERANS ARE STAYING AT HOME. THEY NEED SOME HELP, AND I WANT TO SEE THEM GET HELP. AND I WOULD HOPE THAT SENATOR RUBIO WOULD WORK WITH ME TO MAKE SURE THEY GET THAT HELP.
In February, Rubio was one of forty-one Senate Republicans who blocked a bill that would have improved veterans’ benefits. It is amazing that he and his fellow Republicans have the nerve to stand up and suggest that they care about vets, when they have done nothing but obstruct bills for veterans for years.
Republicans are offering nothing, but their usual knee jerk reactions and gimmicks to score cheap political points. Marco Rubio, who still laughably thinks that he could be president, was the first of many Republicans who will have their humiliating records of veterans issues revealed if they try to play partisan political games with this scandal.
Marco Rubio is a fraud, but vets have a true friend in Bernie Sanders.