Veterans’ advocacy groups on Thursday slammed Senate Republicans’ move to block a much-anticipated bill aimed at expanding care for veterans who were exposed to toxins during military service.
The Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act was the product of a year of negotiations between the House and the Senate, and Wednesday’s vote was largely expected to be a victory for veterans in need of care.
‘Total bullsh---:’ ““This is total bulls—,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said during a press conference in front of the Capitol on Thursday.
“We had strong bipartisan support for this bill. And at the 11th hour, Senator Toomey decides that he wants to rewrite the bill, change the rules, and tank it.”
What happened Wednesday? The Senate voted 55-42 to advance the PACT Act, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The upper chamber passed the bill last month by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 84-14 vote, and the House passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 342-88. The Senate needed to vote on it again because of technical changes made by the House.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who initially voted yes, changed his vote to no and brought a motion to reconsider.
‘Lack of amendment process’: In floor speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday,
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) said he opposed the bill because it moves $400 billion from discretionary spending to mandatory spending, which he called a “budgetary gimmick.”
The Pennsylvania Republican proposed amending the bill by moving that funding back to discretionary spending, which is subject to annual Congressional appropriations.
In a floor speech on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Toomey’s amendment should have been offered for a vote.
“Even on legislation this major and this costly, the Democratic leader tried to block the Senate from any semblance of a fair amendment process,” McConnell said.
Next steps: Speaking to reporters later on Thursday, Schumer said the upper chamber bill will vote on the bill again Monday evening.
- The majority leader said he offered Toomey the chance to amend the bill on the floor, but Toomey insisted that the bill itself be changed before the upper chamber considers it.
- “I stand by the offer. We will give Senator Toomey a right to bring his amendment to the floor and try to get the votes for it,” Schumer said.
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