Republican Senators attempted to strip House spending changes prior to final passage.
A bill to aid U.S. military veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during their service passed the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and now heads to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
The “Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022,” better known as the PACT Act, initially passed the Senate in July before it was changed in the U.S. House. The House shifted some $400 billion of spending from the discretionary to the mandatory spending category, raising the ire of Senate Republicans when the bill came back to their chamber.
Last week, the measure failed to get the 60 votes needed in the Senate, falling 55-42. Mississippi Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith were among the 41 Republicans voting against the House changes.
Yet, on Tuesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer allowed a vote on an amendment offered by Republican Senator Pat Toomey to remove those House changes. That amendment would have ensured Democrats could not fill the $400 billion budget hole with unrelated spending. However, it failed, leaving Republican Senators in a pickle, so to speak, as the primary goal for them has been to support the affected military service members despite the Democrats’ added provisions in the bill.
Ultimately, 39 of the 50 Republican Senators voted for the PACT Act on final passage, with Mississippi’s Wicker and Hyde-Smith among those voting in favor.
“The PACT Act is an important step forward for veterans who have been denied their benefits for too long, and I look forward to seeing it passed without further delay,” Senator Wicker said. “I appreciated Senator Pat Toomey for leading the effort to help make this legislation better for veterans and their families who do not want to see the federal government use their cause to spend billions on unrelated priorities. Senate Republicans will continue our efforts to ensure these funds are spent only on veterans.”
Wicker added that Senate Republicans will have additional opportunities to address the funding loophole through the appropriations process, which will proceed later this year.
“A major expansion of VA benefits to help veterans exposed to toxins will become law. The legislative process worked and I’m honored to again vote for this bill,” Senator Hyde-Smith said. “I appreciate the efforts to address the underlying budgetary issues in the bill but know that we ultimately have a commitment to our veterans. The VA must now implement and deliver this help efficiently and thoroughly. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”