Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tea Party champion blocking Camp Lejeune water bill

South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, champion of the extremist Tea Party, has turned his venom toward North Carolina military families who were poisoned by their own government. The News and Observer reports
Thousands of sick Marine veterans and their families may be on the verge of taking a giant leap toward receiving health care for illnesses they suffered from decades of water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Legislation that has languished for years was expected to be voted on in the full Senate this week under an across-the-aisle deal between the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. But a South Carolina senator has blocked the bill, saying he worries about fraud.
The Senator is using a procedural tactic called a "hold," which allows any senator to unilaterally block a bill or other action, such as a nomination. In this case, a bill with widespread, bipartisan support is being blocked by a single ideological crank.

The most immediate consequence of Sen. DeMint's stunt is that it slows much-needed assistance for victims of the government's negligence. However, the Senator's unilateral action also keeps the Senate from considering other business. The types of holds have figured into the larger Republican strategy to slow everything in the Senate.

Step one for the Senate should be to pass this bill to help military families.

Step two should be to remove the undemocratic power of individual Senators to obstruct the nation's business.