Earlier this week on Veterans Day, we noted that the Senate was hoping to pass legislation aimed at helping injured vets, including the Caregiver Bill, which would provide funding, support and healthcare coverage for those who provide care for wounded veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill went nowhere on Wednesday, however, and it's all thanks to one man. A solitary senator stood up and said "no" to the troops and their overstretched families on Veterans Day. Paul Rieckhoff, founder and director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, had this to say to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann about this lawmaker:
He's isolated here. This isn't even the GOP. This is one senator standing in the way of the most comprehensive health reform and health benefits package for caregivers, the wives, husbands, grandmothers, parents, who are caring for the most severely wounded folks. They are really under tremendous pressure and tremendous stress, and they need stress counseling themselves. That's a part of this bill.
And he's very isolated. Every veterans group has lined up against him on this and he's got to back down. We hope the American people will pressure him to do just that.
Who is this man? The fearless Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), more commonly known as Dr. No.
You see, Coburn is just misunderstood. He's all for the troops, as long as "for the troops" = cheering those who go off to fight bad guys. Yeah! Dr. No says, "kick some butt, GI Joe!" But when it comes to troops who happened to have the bad luck to go and get hurt out there on the battlefield, well, Coburn clearly doesn't want to have to deal with that.
Of course, Coburn says it's all about the Benjamins. He says we can't just go spending money on soldiers all willy-nilly; so what if they need it? To make his point, Coburn used the torture lingo he picked up in Washington. According to this piece in Stars and Stripes, Coburn's spokesman, John "I Have No" Hart, said the following (emphasis and made-up middle names ours):
Coburn "believes strongly if we don't start paying for things we're not going to have a country left to defend," Hart said. "He says we are waterboarding the next generation with debt and somebody has to stand up and say, 'Let's cut it out.'"
Yeah. Rarely is the question asked: Is our children being waterboarded by the deficit?
So, in order to save our children from the torture of taxes, Coburn insists that we incorporate into every spending bill a way to pay for that spending. Even for our troops.
Except in the case of a war spending bill, that is. Then Dr. No changes his tune to "Yes, yes!" That helps explain his yea votes to authorize spending billions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006 that were not paid for.
So, to recap: It's OK to spend money making vets, but not OK to spend money to help them return to civilian life.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), the highest-ranking veteran elected to Congress, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow he was extremely frustrated with Coburn's example of the disconnect between war funding and troop care:
This is politics at its worst. It's what most irks me about Washington D.C. Somehow, they think strength is purely military force, not understanding it's our people. And they have forgotten that, particularly in this case.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Politico that he had trouble understanding how "illogical" Coburn was being by holding up this bill after refusing to oppose other war spending:
"Where was he when we were spending a trillion dollars on the war in Iraq?" Reid asked. "That wasn't paid for. I didn't hear him stopping the bill from going forward at that time. I think he should become more logical and understand we have people who are suffering."
Perhaps "illogical" isn't the best way to describe Coburn's stance. Maybe Reid meant ideological? Perhaps. But we can think of an even better word for it: hypocritical. And that's why Tom "Dr. No" Coburn is our GOP Hypocrite of the Week.
Remember our motto: So many Republican hypocrites, so little time.
Catch up with you soon.