The photo above, courtesy of Progress Florida, shows the 16 Florida Republicans that are responsible for the GOP government shutdown. Because they all wanted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" as they refer to it, they thought they could blackmail their way into repealing it. Of course, as most people know, it's the law, and this was a worthless endeavor on top of their voting to repeal the law over 40 times which served two purposes, wasting time and wasting your tax dollars to do it. Again, it's the law, and no matter how many times they voted to do so, it was never going to happen in the first place.
Since that didn't work, these Republicans decided to tell the public, in the form of a shutdown, that if they aren't allowed to take away your right to affordable health care coverage under the law, they will take much of everything else from you by shutting the government down. (For a partial list of things the shutdown will deny you, click here.)
Yes, that's today's GOP, lovers of God and country, bringing down the government, hurting the economy, and their own constituents, and trying to take away any chance for a healthy future just like Jesus would do.
Of course Republicans can never remind us enough of how much they "support the troops" so it's even more shameful that they're twisting the knife in the backs of veterans while they conduct this deeply consequential, anti-democracy temper tantrum. You see, if this shutdown goes on much longer, veterans benefits will get cut, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will be unable to make disability compensation and pension payments to those veterans who gave up so much to serve and to defend the very Democracy the Republicans are rebelling against now because they don't like the health care law that was passed, don't like the President who is responsible for the law, nor apparently those who voted for him twice, as well as that very law, overwhelmingly.
One of those members who voted for the shutdown that will cut benefits out from under veterans is Gus Bilirakis (R-eally-Really-Safe-District). Those who live in his district know well of his claims of working tirelessly for veterans, and they have loads of frequent emails to prove it. In a recent message for Memorial Day, he wrote this:
For more than two centuries, America's brave men and women have answered the call, defending the strength of this great nation. Through their selfless sacrifices, we continue to live in a country known as the land of the free and the home of the brave.]
[Let us observe Memorial Day and every day forward with gratitude and reverence for the past, and with hope and optimism for the future. Let us continue to support those who continue to fight for our freedoms and celebrate the lives of those who have truly made America the country we can be so proud to call home.
We owe an enormous debt of gratitude for their service – one that words alone cannot repay. God bless our nation’s heroes and their families, and God bless America.
Yet "words alone" are all Bilirakis has to offer, because that "enormous debt of gratitude" owed them includes the benefits they rightfully earned, which he is now withholding for political leverage in his fight to take away health care for so many others, sacrificed at the altar of "freedom" as defined by Bilirakis and the GOP.
Not only did he vote for the shutdown that will block those benefits, but worse, he and his fellow members are using both to further twist the knife and use them as political footballs on two fronts.
One was yesterday, when a group of veterans on an Honor Flight Network visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington arrived to find it was closed, thanks to the shutdown. Having come all the way from Mississippi, they pushed past the barricades anyway. When word got out, some of Bilirakis' fellow shutdown voting members rushed to the scene for a photo-op with the veterans. Michelle Bachmann, who said the shutdown was just what the Republicans wanted, was there, along with Steve King, seen here posing for pictures there yesterday. If that weren't enough, the Republican National Committee also used it as a political opportunity by announcing that the RNC would "fund the Memorial" to keep it open, even though the National Park Service had already announced it would remain open. On top of that, the National Republican Congressional Committee is now using the veterans’ reclamation of their memorial to add email addresses to their mailing list. I don't know if Bilirakis was there yesterday or not, but here he is posing with veterans at another Honor Flight event at that same memorial in a photo that accompanied his Memorial Day email quoted above:
Worse still, the Republicans didn't stop there. They had yet another way to exploit those veterans for political advantage. Even though they forced the government shutdown that will cut the benefits, they turned around and used them again to get an expedited bill passed to fully fund the Veterans Affairs Department during the shutdown. They want to pick and choose what gets funded and what doesn't. (More like what looks good for them.) The bill didn't pass, and you'll never guess who they're now trying to pin the blame on:
Rep Jeff Miller, R-Fla., House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, blamed Democrats for defeating the measure. “House Democrats chose to put politics before the needs of America’s veterans and their loved ones,” he said. “Our veterans have already gone above and beyond for our nation. The last thing they deserve is for the country they courageously defended to abandon them. It’s unfortunate that some in Congress seem to be fighting to ensure that happens.”
Miller neglected to mention that 33 Republicans also voted against the bill, but who's counting, because freedom!
So to recap, Bilirakis and his fellow Republicans vote to shut down the government, thus cutting veterans benefits, among other things, which also forces the closing of the World War II Memorial. Veterans make their way to the memorial anyway, so Republicans who are responsible for both rush to the scene to use those veterans for a photo-op. They then try to reinstate partial funding they already cut with a bill they know won't pass, and when it doesn't, they blame everyone but themselves. Then, in spite of the fact that the Memorial is now being kept open anyway, the RNC "announces" that "they will fund the Memorial to keep it open" and the NRCC then asks for "support" in that effort while collecting addresses for their mailing list. (No doubt when one submits their information it leads them directly to a contribution page.)
Yes sir! This is how Gus Bilirakis and the Republican Party "support the troops."
Of course they could end this entire shutdown temper tantrum over the health care law and every other excuse they've used to trample Democracy any time by just ending it. But they won't. If they can't get what they want, they'll take veterans and the rest of the country down with them.
You would think that the Congressman who has this posted on his website's bio would step in to finally do the right thing by those veterans, and by the country as well:
Gus is also known for his work on behalf of veterans. In his role as Vice-Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a member of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) Subcommittee, Gus continues to ensure our nation’s heroes remain a top priority.
Bilirakis has a funny way of showing he makes veterans a "top priority." As he wrote himself, words alone cannot repay those veterans for their service, and until Bilirakis and Republicans stop exploiting veterans for political gain, "priority, gratitude, God Bless our nation's heroes, and God Bless America" are just that.