President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE on Wednesday signed a sweeping, bipartisan bill designed to expand veterans’ access to private health care, at a ceremony that excluded its Senate Democratic co-author.
During the event in the White House Rose Garden, Trump framed the bill as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) scandal-plagued health program.
"You've fulfilled your duty to our nation with tremendous loyalty and courage, and with the signing of this veterans' choice legislation, we take one more crucial step in fulfilling our duty to you," he said.
The bill allows veterans to see private physicians if they do not receive needed treatment from VA medical facilities, as long as it is approved by a health provider. It is designed to replace the existing private provider program, known as VA Choice.
The VA has come under fire for long wait times at its hospital facilities and, in some cases, lack of proper care.
The president was flanked on stage by more than a dozen GOP lawmakers, administration officials and veterans advocates. No Democrats were on stage, though one was in the audience.
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (Mont.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, who helped write the bill, was not in attendance. Tester’s office said the senator was not invited.
“Jon Tester is a work horse, not a show horse. What’s most important to Jon is fighting for Montana veterans and holding the VA accountable,” said spokeswoman Marnee Banks.
Republicans are targeting Tester for defeat in the 2018 midterm elections and the Montana senator came under criticism form the White House after his office released a list of allegations against Trump’s VA nominee Ronny Jackson that helped lead to Jackson's withdrawal from the nomination.
In an April tweet, Trump called for Tester’s resignation while claiming the allegations against Jackson were “proving false.”
Tester also was not invited to a bill signing last week for legislation rolling back parts of the Dodd-Frank banking law, which he also helped write.