Senate reaches deal on bill for veterans with toxic exposure illnesses
(The Hill) – Senate Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement to pass legislation expanding benefits for veterans who are suffering illnesses due to toxic exposures, with a vote on the measure expected Tuesday evening.
“We expect to have an agreement on the PACT Act with amendments,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “I believe it will pass and pass this evening. So, that’s very good news.”
Schumer said that the Senate will vote on three amendments to the bill, with 60 votes being needed to pass those bills. The upper chamber will then move to finally pass the bill.
The deal will also allow the upper chamber to vote on Finland and Sweden joining NATO on Friday.
The agreement comes as Republicans have been trying to find a way to end a standoff over the bill after blocking the measure by a vote of 55-42 last Wednesday.
Twenty-five Republicans who initially voted to advance the bill in June changed their votes.
Veterans have been camped outside the Capitol since last Thursday in a bid to pressure Senators to change their minds on the measure.
The upper chamber passed the bill by a vote of 84-14 in June, and the House last month passed the bill by a 342-88 vote.
Republicans have said they are not opposed to the original substance of the bill, but rather a “budgetary gimmick” that would designate $400 billion spent by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as mandatory spending. This spending would not be subject to annual appropriations process like discretionary spending.
Earlier on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, told reporters that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had been offered amendments on the bill. But 60 votes are needed to pass them.