Vet Shock Burning Pit Legislation Fails to Advance in Senate

The Senate failed to pass a procedural vote on Wednesday that would have cleared the way for a vote on legislation to extend benefits to the approximately 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic combustion fireplaces during America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The bill, known as the Honoring Our PACT Act, passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support in June, but due to a problem in the wording of the bill, it had to backtrack and pass the House and Senate again. On Wednesday night, 25 Republican senators rescinded their June support and voted no in a procedural vote to push the legislation forward.

The veterans returned home with a number of illnesses, including terminal cancers, but were forced to claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs that their illnesses were linked to exposure to the fireplaces. The legislation would have removed the burden of proof from veterans and their families assuming that a number of conditions could be linked to exposure to toxic fumes from burning fireplaces.

President Joe Biden is a strong supporter of the bill. At State of the Union Marchhe called on Congress to take action on the burning fireplaces, which he said may have been a factor in his son’s death. Beau’s terminal brain cancer.

Democrats hold press conference ahead of Senate vote on PACT bill
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) speaks during a press conference on the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act on Capitol Hill July 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At a Thursday news conference outside the U.S. Capitol originally scheduled ahead of the bill’s passage through the Senate, veterans’ service organizations and sponsors of the legislation denounced the about-face. sudden surge of senators who voted in favor of the bill last month.

“I’ve never seen anything that happened like what happened yesterday and what makes it worse and makes it even more difficult is that we basically took benefits away from people yesterday who were affected by war – that we sent to war,” the Democrat said. Senator Jon Tester of Montana said at the press conference.

Other speakers at the press conference, including former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, hurled swear words at Congress.

“It’s an embarrassment to the Senate, to the country, to the Founders and to everything they claim to hold dear. And if it’s America first, then America is f*** **,” Stewart said.

Speakers at the press conference advocated for easier access to health care for veterans exposed to toxic fumes from open-air burning pits, holes in the ground where the military would dump trash and burn it – sometimes using jet fuel as an accelerator – to dispose of it.

The press conference was meant to be a happy affair, but instead speakers expressed shock at the failure to advance legislation that seemed like a fait accompli in June.

U.S. Army veteran Aleks Morosky of the Wounded Warrior Project attended the event along with representatives from several other veteran service organizations.

“We promise people who serve in the military that we will support them if they are hurt,” Morosky said. “Passing the PACT Act today would have finally fulfilled that promise for veterans with toxic injuries. But instead, that promise is still broken.”

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted no in June and Wednesday because of the way the money is accounted for, though he supports the legislation’s goal.

Toomey opposes the bill because it includes language that would shift money from discretionary spending to mandatory spending, freeing up about $400 billion in discretionary spending for anything, including unrelated programs. veterans

Twenty-five Republicans who voted yes in June joined Toomey and voted no on Wednesday. Because several senators were not present for the vote due to COVID and Senator Patrick Leahy was absent while recovering from hip surgery, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes for overcome the filibuster.

Tester said the Senate Appropriations Committee should be able to resolve the issues raised by Toomey, but instead Toomey and other Republican senators blocked the procedural vote. Toomey said Wednesday that he and others were ready to resolve the issue through a voice vote and pass the bill.

It will be difficult for the Senate to pass the bill and send it to the White House before the August recess unless Republicans are allowed to pass amendments on discretionary versus mandatory spending. , as a few senators are self-isolating after testing positive for COVID .

At Thursday’s press conference, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said the Senate should not go home until this bill is passed and on its way to the White House.

“This delay may not seem like a big deal, but one, we didn’t pass the bill and two, there will be veterans dying by the time this bill passes,” Tester said. Thursday.

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