VA secretary says Republican-backed amendments to burn pits legislation would lead to 'rationing of care for vets'
(CNN) Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough on Sunday pushed back against Senate Republicans blocking passage of the administration-backed PACT Act, warning that if the chamber passes GOP senators' proposed amendment to the legislation aimed at providing care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, "we may have to ration care for veterans."
McDonough told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" that a proposed amendment from Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey would put "a year-on-year cap" on what the VA can spend to care for veterans suffering from exposure to burn pits and sunsets the fund after 10 years, telling Tapper, "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 on."
"This has been the No.
1 priority for President Biden," McDonough said, touting executive action steps the Biden administration has already taken to remove the burden of proof for veterans seeking care for toxic exposure.
"I guess what I'd say is, these folks have waited long enough.
Let's just get it done, and also let's not be for a proposal that places artificial caps on year by year, and then functionally, at the end of those 10 years, makes this fund go away.
Let's not sign up to that, because at the end of the day, the risk of that is going to be rationing of care to veterans."
On Saturday, McDonough visited people demonstrating at the Capitol in support of the legislation, delivering pizzas to the group, who pledged they would stay overnight.
President Joe Biden , who remains in isolation at the White House after testing positive again for Covid-19 on Saturday, told the group via a FaceTime call, "I'll tell you what, as long as I have a breath in me, I'm going to fight to get this done -- as long as I have a breath in me."