Veterans Bill on Toxic Exposure to Move Forward After Compromise Reached

UNITED STATES - May 26: Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference with other members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to unveil legislation to expand benefits and improve care for veterans suffering from toxic exposure to burn pits and other hazards, in Washington on Wednesday, May 26, …
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A bill aimed at expanding benefits for veterans suffering from toxic exposure is moving forward in the Senate, after Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise earlier Tuesday.

When the bill came up for a vote last week, Republicans blocked it from moving forward due to a budgetary gimmick contained in the bill that they opposed.

The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act moves $400 billion from discretionary spending — which currently has a cap of $1.6 trillion — to mandatory spending, essentially giving Democrats $400 billion more to spend under the discretionary category, which they can use on whatever they want. Republicans opposed this maneuver.

Democrats blamed Republicans for the bill’s failure, claiming that Republicans did not care about veterans and sparking angry reaction from progressive veterans, veterans groups, and celebrity Jon Stewart, who has become an advocate for veterans who faced exposure to toxic substances during their military service, which have led to cancer and other terminal illnesses.

Some Democrats claimed that Republicans voted down the bill out of retaliation for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) reviving a slimmed-down version of the Democrats “Build Back Better” bill, now called the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Republicans have denied that their vote on the veterans bill had anything to do with the Inflation Reduction Act. Still, Democrats sought to use confusion over the details of the bill and Republican opposition to their political advantage in recent days, as a group of veterans camped outside of the Capitol and blamed Republicans for sinking it.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) called it “a very old Washington trick playing out on what might be an unprecedented scale.”

Toomey has proposed an amendment designed to make sure the money allocated under the bill would only go to veterans and not lead to an unrelated “spending spree.”

Part of the compromise was to allow Toomey’s amendment to be considered on the Senate floor.

During a floor speech on Tuesday, he accused Democrats of using veterans to push the budgetary gimmick, which could never pass otherwise.


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