U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) released a statement calling on the Senate to take immediate action to remove critical hurdles that prevent veterans from receiving life-saving care.
Specifically, any bill must provide a presumption of service connection for key ailments affecting veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits in the line of duty.
“I am encouraged the Senate will finally consider legislation with presumptive benefits for our veterans,” Rubio said. “It is horrific that veterans are suffering from debilitating illnesses and dying because they cannot get the care they earned. No more baby steps. No more half measures. No more excuses. We need to get this done, now.”
Earlier this year, Rubio called the Senate-passed Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act a “half measure,” praised the House-passed Honoring our PACT Act for including a presumption of service connection, and said he “remain[ed] committed to getting a meaningful and comprehensive bill signed into law.”
Last week, Rubio urged his Senate colleagues to act on legislation that included presumption of service connection. The letter, which he sent with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), advocated that the Honoring our PACT Act “should be taken up in the Senate.” Today, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the Senate will consider the bill this year.
In March 2021, Rubio and Gillibrand introduced the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act (S. 952), which would streamline the process for veterans to obtain VA benefits for injuries from burn pits and other toxic exposures by removing the burden of proof from the veteran.
As Rubio fights for veterans, he’s also questioning spending from the ‘American Rescue Plan’.
Last week Rubio sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office seeking details of how state and local governments spent $350 billion allotted to them by President Joe Biden’s much-ballyhooed American Rescue Plan.
Fortune magazine recently provided one example of why Rubio is concerned about this issue.
It seems Broward County officials used some of the $140 million it received in Rescue Plan funding to break ground on what those officials describe as an “upscale 800-room headquarters hotel” that will be part of the county Convention Center complex. The hotel will offer “views of the Atlantic Ocean and an 11,000-square-foot spa,” said Fortune.
In his letter, Rubio noted the Rescue Plan was intended to “mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the public health emergency.”
“It was an unprecedented allocation of emergency federal funding to state and local entities, which many of my colleagues and I warned would become a slush fund plagued by mismanagement and abuse,” Rubio added. “Unfortunately, recent reports have uncovered the exact kind of irresponsible actions we feared.”
The senator argued that by knowing where the money went, taxpayers will “benefit from full transparency and Congress can protect against further waste and abuse.”
Rubio noted that the Rescue Plan came with “broad guardrails” to guide state and local governments. Their efforts were designed to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and “its negative economic effects on communities, providing additional supports to essential workers, replacing lost or delayed revenues, and making certain infrastructure investments.” The Treasury Department also outlined some “flexibility” in the spending rules.
Yet, he added, “The stories of waste and abuse are piling up.”
“States and localities have reportedly used the money to renovate baseball stadiums, replace golf course irrigation systems, push new local marketing campaigns to attract tourists, revamp websites, and fund construction of a luxury hotel,” he wrote.
“Regardless of how much flexibility some in our legislative body may have wanted to attach to these hundreds of billions of dollars, few can argue that this is what Congress had in mind.”
As proof, Fortune offered details of other initiatives.
Dutchess County, New York, plopped down $12 million of its relief aid to renovate a minor league baseball stadium so as to meet requirements for farm teams of the New York Yankees.
In Massachusetts, state lawmakers doled out $5 million to pay off debts of the financially strapped Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston.
“Reports of outrageous and wasteful spending come at the same time the Biden Administration demands additional funding for COVID-related programs,” Rubio said.
“During a time of soaring prices, continued supply chain challenges, and other disruptions to our economy, taxpayers and lawmakers must have transparency into how this funding is being used.”
As we might expect with such cases, this boon for state and local governments is little more than a boondoggle for taxpayers.