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Chester County Press

Editorial: The last full measure of his hypocrisy

11/22/2022 04:12PM ● By Richard Gaw

Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Toomey was born on November 17, 1961 as the son of a former U.S. Marine, during a period when every American child was only one decade- and-a-half removed from World War II, a few precious years from the Korean Conflict and with the threat of U.S. involvement in Cambodia and Vietnam looming in the near distance.

To be the son of a veteran is to live a life of quiet deference to honor, bravery and service, and there is little doubt that Toomey grew up in the dining room table presence of uncles and grandfathers who, just like his father, held their own stories of war tight to the vest and accepted a piece of responsibility for the raising of the boy in the company of shared experiences.

Therefore, as Toomey begins to prepare for the next chapter of his life away from politics, it is both important and ironic to reflect on the juxtaposition between the soft-spoken impact of the heroes of his childhood and his abysmal treatment of U.S. veterans over the course of his nearly 12 years in the U.S. Senate.

This summer, The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) received 57 votes, short of the 60 needed to advance. Forty-two Republicans, including Toomey, voted against it. Toomey urged his fellow Republicans to reject the bill, saying it contained a budget gimmick designed to open up $400 billion in spending unrelated to veterans' care.

If passed, the bill would have enhanced health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits.

His rejection of the PACT Act may have been Toomey’s most recent tale of disregard for veterans, but it serves as merely a touchstone to a decade-long track record that has seen him block bills to boost health, education and job training programs for U.S. veterans. In September 2012, Toomey voted to block the Veterans Jobs Corps Act that would require states to issue licenses for trade jobs such as plumbing or truck driving to veterans without requiring pre-training of apprenticeships, providing the veteran has at least ten years of military service. 

In 2014, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act that would extend and expand health care and education benefits and job-assistance programs for veterans and their families, strengthen the Post-9/11 GI Bill, expand advance appropriations for more of the VA’s budget, provide  dental care coverage for veterans, benefits for surviving spouses, as well as care related to military sexual trauma -- and institute new rules for VA’s claims processing reports.

Along with his Republican colleagues, Toomey voted against the bill, which was eventually rejected by a vote of 56-41.

Add to this record the bitter irony expressed in the sugar-coated blather of commitment Toomey continues to express for U.S. veterans on his way out the Senate door. On his website, it reads: 

Senator Toomey is proud of our men and women in uniform who are currently serving to protect the United States. The son of a former U.S. Marine and representing a state with one of the largest veteran populations in the country, he is also acutely aware of the nation's commitment to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom. He understands how important it is that we continue to provide quality medical care and other benefits to veterans, both to those who served a generation ago, and to those just returning from fighting in the war against terrorism.

Had enough of the saccharin? Here’s another morsel: In a Memorial Day post on his Facebook page, Toomey wrote: “God bless the veterans who gave what Abraham Lincoln called the ‘last full measure of devotion,’ the troops that protect us today, & their families.”

No American elected official, be he or she a Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, a member of the U.S. House or Senate or a state representative, should reject any proposed legislation designed to provide assistance to our veteran community. To do otherwise is to commit a betrayal of one’s country.

Pat Toomey has fashioned an entire political career out of such acts of treason. It is likely the wish of many veterans and their families to have Toomey spend the remainder of his life haunted by the veterans he knew as a child -- including his own father – whose staring eyes in the face of such unconscionable indecencies will not retreat from his mind.