Last month, both of South Dakota’s Senators voted against the PACT Act, the measure to expand assistance for military personnel poisoned by toxic burn pits and other hazardous materials while serving our country. The Senate passed the PACT Act over South Dakota’s objection 84–14, but now Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds have rallied their fellow Republicans to block the bill:
Republican lawmakers blocked passage of a bill in the U.S. Senate Wednesday that expands healthcare coverage for military veterans who were exposed to toxins and burn pits during their service.
All Democrats and eight Republicans voted for the Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, but the 55 yes votes fell short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster in the Senate. Three Senators did not vote.
…The House passed the PACT Act by a 342-88 vote on July 13, about a month after the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 84-14.
The Senate had to retake the bill up on Wednesday because the House passed some minor changes in its version [Brad Dress, “GOP Senators Block Bill Expanding Care for Veterans Exposed to Toxins,” The Hill, 2022.07.27].
Republicans leaders didn’t initially say why they were reneging on their support for poisoned veterans, but Democrats note this reversal came the same day Democrats announced their breakthrough deal on the budget:
But the block came just as Democratic leaders announced plans for a comprehensive budget reconciliation measure — a plan that the GOP caucus previously pledged to oppose, including increased efforts to snarl normal business in the chamber.
Democratic leaders immediately attacked their colleagues putting political vendettas ahead of needed veterans benefits.
“This eleventh-hour act of cowardice will actively harm this country’s veterans and their families,” said Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont. “Republicans chose today to rob generations of toxic-exposed veterans across this country of the health care and benefits they so desperately need.
“And make no mistake, more veterans will suffer and die as a result.”
Republican leaders gave no public comment on the reasons behind the surprise move, or on what changes would be needed to move the legislation ahead. The Senate is scheduled to go on a month-long recess on Aug. 5, and advocates had hoped to have the PACT Act on the president’s desk before then.
That timeline appears out of reach now [Leo Shane III, “New Benefits for Burn Pit Victims in Limbo After Senate Republicans Block Plan,” Military Times, 2022.07.27].
Voting against health care for poisoned veterans is a bad look in itself. Voting against it just because you’re mad because the other party might be on the road to scoring a big win on some other piece of legislation is even worse.