North Carolinas Republican Sen. Richard Burr is standing tall for Marine veterans and their families members suffering from illnesses (cancer, childhood leukemia) and problems (birth defects) related to long-term well water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Burr wants federally provided health care for those who lived or worked at the base over a 30-year period between 1957 and 1987 and can document their health problems.
Hes joined in the effort by 13th District Rep. Brad Miller of Ralleigh and Sen. Kay Hagan, both Democrats.
But Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina is casting a cynical eye Burrs way, and using parliamentary procedure to hold the bill up.
His objection? Hes worried about people making fraudulent claims for health care. And while he objects, the care of perhaps 750,000 people is in doubt.
DeMint, a tea party hero, claims hes not against helping veterans, but he wants some language in the bill about potential fraud.
One problem with that ill-considered logic is that, as Burr says, the Department of Veterans Affairs already has plenty of safeguards against fraud. If DeMint is really a small-government guy, then why does he want more of those rules that he and his philosophical allies despise so much?
And does the senator understand these are U.S. Marines and Marine families were talking about? These are people who have made multiple sacrifices for their country, including and especially during the 30-year period when drinking water contamination at Lejeune put them at risk.
They are honorable people who are not asking, through Burr and others, for anything beyond that which they believe they deserve. Does DeMint have such a low opinion of men and women who have worn the countrys uniform that he suspects them of being cheaters?
For once, in a Congress embattled and divided along party lines most of the time, members and leaders of both political sides have come together to do something good and wise and timely and humane. For many of these Marines and their families, time is of the essence. They need help, and they need it immediately.
Toward that end, DeMint ought to step out of the way and allow his colleagues to do the right thing.