Senate passes veterans health monthly bill following Republicans cave to stress

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday handed legislation expanding lifesaving health treatment rewards for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans uncovered to toxic melt away pits.

The 86-11 vote arrived right after Republicans agreed to lift their blockade of the common invoice, caving to force from far more than 60 veterans groups — and comic Jon Stewart — who had railed in opposition to Republicans for times exterior the Capitol.

Many of the veterans who experienced camped on the Senate actions, braving warmth, humidity and thunderstorms, watched the vote from the gallery in the Senate chamber. The monthly bill has already cleared the Household and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Comedian and activist Jon Stewart embraces Susan Zeier, mom-in-law of the late Sgt. Initially Class Heath Robinson, just before the Senate vote on the PACT Act outside the Capitol on Aug. 2, 2022.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

It really is “pretty psychological. [These are] tears of pleasure and relief,” stated Jen Burch, 35, a retired Air Force staff sergeant who suffers from various ailments she thinks ended up induced by publicity to burn off pits and open sewage ponds in Afghanistan.

“This is our night to celebrate, but we have more operate to do to continue on advocating and to make sure the [Department of Veterans Affairs] does their occupation in employing this legislation for our veterans.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough explained his agency will act swiftly following Biden symptoms the measure.

“As soon as the President indications this invoice into regulation, we at VA will carry out it immediately and successfully, offering the care these Veterans will need and the rewards they have earned,” McDonough mentioned in a statement.

Biden lauded the bill’s passage Tuesday evening, contacting it a “lifeline” to people who had shed a loved just one since of toxic publicity.

“Congress has delivered a decisive and bipartisan earn for America’s veterans,” Biden claimed in a statement. “For the millions of veterans who may possibly have been exposed to dangerous harmful toxins, this invoice suggests faster entry to health care services and other rewards. This could be the big difference between lifestyle and demise for quite a few struggling from poisonous related sicknesses.”

Greater part Chief Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on the Senate ground, stated that with passage of the PACT Act, “veterans throughout America can breathe a sigh of aid.”

He then joined Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., to thank the vets outdoors the Capitol for their advocacy. “The remedy that they have deserved and have necessary but have been denied for the reason that of the VA, mainly because of all types of lawful barriers and presumptions, will now be gone.

“Veterans who have been uncovered to the poisonous fumes of burn off pits will be dealt with by the VA like they really should have been from the extremely starting,” Schumer included.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., had been a person of the Republicans holding up the monthly bill as he demanded a vote on his modification to set paying guardrails in spot to make sure some of the substantial $280 billion bundle in excess of 10 decades couldn’t be invested on “wholly unrelated packages.” Democrats disputed Toomey’s characterization, expressing the revenue would only be expended on veterans.

“I’m supposed to have confidence in this and future congresses not to go on a paying out spree? Severely? That’s unbelievable,” Toomey explained prior to the vote. “Why did they structure this characteristic so that they could go on a paying out spree?”

Toomey experienced insisted that his modification be brought to the flooring with a 50-vote, simple-the greater part threshold. In the conclude, he and other Republicans gave into Schumer’s demands that a few GOP amendments would acquire votes with a greater 60-vote threshold, essentially ensuring their defeat. All fell nicely underneath that bar.

The Senate experienced already voted 84-14 to go the burn off pits monthly bill in June, but 25 Republican yea votes reversed program when the laws arrived up again final week, with many echoing Toomey’s investing fears and arguing that Democrats did not give them a likelihood to amend the bundle. Democrats and veterans argued, nonetheless, that a lot of Republicans ended up voting against the monthly bill in retaliation for the substantial deal on local weather modify, health treatment and taxes that Democrats had just crafted.

With some veterans pretty much sleeping on the steps on the Capitol around the weekend, the Republican blockade grew to become more and more untenable.

“I feel they are fraying in conditions of their skill to withstand this,” Stewart, who has also fought for funding for 9/11 initial responders and their households, explained to G3 Box News News before Tuesday’s deal was introduced.

“I assume this is cruel and unusual punishment that is heading on and they’ve obtained to stop this.”

Ali Vitali, Frank Thorp V and Zoë Richards contributed.

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