Commentary: Sen. Coburn single-handedly stops bill to help veterans

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and two of his colleagues on Monday called on "Dr. No" to allow a Senate vote to help some of our seriously wounded veterans and their families.

"Dr. No" is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a budget hawk who has exercised his senator's prerogative to place a hold on the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009. That bill would ease the burden of family members and other private individuals who care for veterans disabled and severely wounded since 9/11, expand services for women veterans, make medical care easier for vets in rural areas and increase outreach efforts to homeless vets.

Begich and Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii urged Coburn -- who attended their press conference -- to pull his hold on the bill and let it come to a floor vote for Veterans Day -- today.

Thus far Coburn has refused to yield.

He criticizes the bill for the fact that the Senate has no idea how to pay most of the tab -- $3.7 billion over five years. And he criticizes the bill for restricting some of its help to those who have served since Sept. 11, 2001. What about Persian Gulf and Vietnam vets? Do those veterans or their caregivers deserve less?

His second point is worthwhile.

His first point has merit on its face, but is laughable when you consider that the United States government hasn't known how it was going to pay for the entire cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for some time now, other than borrowing. That hasn't stopped the wars. If the nation is going to continue its wars, the nation has to take care of its warriors. It's that simple.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.