Talk of ‘burn pits’ legislation after State of Union speech
Leaving the chamber following his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill on Tuesday (March 1), Joe Biden was — as presidents typically are — deluged by members of Congress offering congratulations or wanting selfies.
Biden paused to accommodate many, but usually not for long. Then he encountered Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a fellow Democrat and Philipstown resident whose district includes the Highlands.
The president lingered.
What did they discuss — the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Domestic policy, also in the address? The chances for Democrats in November’s elections, since Maloney leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?
No, according to Maloney’s office, they remembered two soldiers: Beau Biden, the president’s son, and Sean Hawkins, a 32-year-old friend of Maloney, who each died of cancer after serving in Iraq and Kosovo, part of the former Yugoslavia that was ravaged by civil war in the 1990s.
Each man worked close to “burn pits,” which contain the garbage of war, such as chemicals, discarded munitions, plastic, human waste and other threats to health. In his address, Biden spoke of the need to help soldiers exposed to these toxins.
Maloney and Biden also talked about a bill that would ensure that veterans exposed to such hazards receive full medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill, known informally as PACT, awaited final action on the House floor on Thursday (March 3).
“The burn-pit bill is a damn big deal,” Maloney said earlier this week.
Edie Meeks, a Beacon resident who was a lieutenant in the nursing corps during the Vietnam War and serves on the board of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission, said in a statement the legislation is important for veterans because Americans must “take care of our soldiers during and after service… . They should never have to beg for physical or emotional care.”