It looked like a smooth path for the benefit of the veterans.
The bipartisan legislation would extend health care benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burns while serving abroad. The first bill passed the Senate last month with 34 Republicans join every Democrat. Veteran groups scheduled a press conference on Thursday, which was widely expected to be a declaration of victory.
But on Wednesday night, Republicans blocked the revised measure of advancing, failing to get the 10 GOP senators needed. Only eight voted to end the debate and continue.
It came right after Democrats outmaneuvered Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his party and announced a surprise deal to revive President Joe Biden’s domestic legislative agenda.
sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) insisted there was no connection between the two events — he said he was concerned about the bill’s funding — but it was hard to ignore the sudden turnaround for so many Republicans who seemed humiliated to be caught blindsided by the Democratic deal.
“This is total nonsense. This is the worst form of over-politicization I’ve ever seen,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), a veterans law sponsor, said Thursday.
McConnell initially thought he had gotten the best from the Democrats. He said Republicans would not go with a bipartisan bill to boost computer chip production in the United States — a priority for the Biden administration — as Democrats revive their “Build Back Better” agenda.
It didn’t seem like McConnell had anything to worry about at first. In mid-July, Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) said he would not support new climate spending or tax increases for the rich because he was very concerned about inflation. Democrats thought their grand ambitions were dead.
And on Wednesday, the Senate passed the computer chip bill with the support of McConnell and 16 other Republicans.
But just hours later, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) announced that they had reached a deal on a sweeping $740 billion package to raise taxes on the rich and invest in climate change and health care while reducing the deficit.
And in a clever box shift, they called it the Inflation Reduction Act. Under Senate rules, this “reconciliation bill” can be passed with only a majority of Senators, meaning Democrats don’t need the cooperation of any Republican — as long as all their members stick together.
Republicans were, of course, outraged for being outsmarted.
Democrats appear to be outsmarting Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)
“It was clear” a double cross of Joe ManchinSenator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Fox News Wednesday night. “Just two weeks ago, he said he wouldn’t support a bill like this.”
“She has stiffened us about this,” Senator John Thune (SD), the chamber’s second Republican, told reporters.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Manchin insisted he was not trying to mislead Republicans.
“There was no malicious intent whatever,” he said. “We had a bill that was almost ready, we were able to close this Wednesday, so because of Wednesday, that means we can reconcile next Wednesday and be ready before we leave” on August 6.
But military veterans may not be the only victims of these Republicans’ hurt feelings. They can also take their anger out on same-sex couples.
A bipartisan group of senators has sought support for legislation that would codify marriage equality. The issue gained urgency when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion rights and conservative judge Clarence Thomas said he would also like to reconsider other issues, including same-sex marriage, through the court.
But on Thursday, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) — one of the proponents of same-sex marriage legislation — said she now expects it to more difficult for her to convince her GOP colleagues to apply.
“I just think the timing couldn’t have been worse, and it came completely out of the blue,” she said, adding: “After we just successfully worked together on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPS Act, it is a most unfortunate move that is destroying the many bipartisan efforts underway.”
“To be clear, Republicans cheated on sick veterans yesterday and today threaten gay and interracial couples all because… Democrats are doing their job and passing extremely popular legislation,” tweeted Jim Messina, White House deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama. “Absolutely ridiculous. Total loser shit.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.