GOP Senators Claim Glitch Sparked Opposition to Veterans Aid Bill | state politics

U.S. state senators on Friday said they voted with fellow Republicans to delay the passage of health care for military personnel exposed to toxins while on duty because of certain language in the legislation that they believe could lead to part of the funding is used for other purposes.

Republican Republican US Senator Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge and John Kennedy of Madisonville had recently supported the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, better known as the PACT Act.

But on Wednesday night, both voted not to abort the debate, prompting a final vote on legislation that would provide comprehensive health care to as many as 3.5 million veterans who came home with a number of illnesses, including terminal cancers, related to exposure to toxic fumes from fire pits, radiation and Agent Orange herbicide.

“On behalf of Louisiana’s 283,000 veterans and their families, we are extremely disappointed to see U.S. Senate action that could jeopardize the final approval of a reform bill that would provide health care to veterans exposed to fire pits and toxic hazards in all American wars,” said Joey Strickland, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. He served combat trips in the Vietnam War, and his two sons both served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I have contacted both Sen. Kennedy’s and Sen. Cassidy’s offices to request that they act to help complete this mission before the U.S. Senators go home for their August recess.”

The legislation would create a $285 billion permanent fund over 10 years that would pay for toxic exposure care. But some of the bill’s language was written in a way that could be interpreted as a way to potentially shift $40 billion a year over 10 years into another pocket fund that could potentially be used for other purposes. Republican Senator Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, offered an amendment to correct language that was not considered before the cloture vote.

A Cassidy spokesperson cited the issue as the reason for his opposition.

“Sen. Cassidy supports the legislation like most of his GOP colleagues — he even voted for an earlier version,” said spokesman Ty Bofferding. “Republicans are only asking for a vote on an amendment that corrects the $400 billion editorial error in the text to ensure the bill is implemented as intended. Congress must resolve this issue and may pass the bill next week.”

A Kennedy aide said the senator had a similar view.

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“Sen. Kennedy has always supported veterans and does not disagree with the policy of the bill (because he voted yes to it before),” said one of his aides, who asked not to be identified. “But in order for the funds to actually go to helping veterans, there has to be a technical solution in this budget. Right now, there’s a budget gimmick in the text that could spend $400 billion, not on veterans. We want to see that fix happen to make this an effective bill for veterans.”

A substantially similar bill was passed by Senate 84-14 last month; both senators voted yes. It has been returned to the House of Representatives. The bill was then passed by House 342-88 on July 13. US Reps Troy Carter, D-New Orleans; Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge; and Julia Letlow, R-Start, voted yes. Congressmen Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette; Mike Johnson, R-Benton; and Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, voted against.

“We understand this is a speed bump,” said retired US Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells, chairman of the Slidell-based Military Veterans Advocacy organization, said of the recent Senate vote. “Apparently there are some cost and amendment issues that need to be resolved before the bill is moved to the floor. I spoke to a senator who voted no, who assured me that the bill will be passed.”

The vote sparked a storm of protest from veteran groups, including the American Legion and the Wounded Warrior Project.

American Legion Legislative Director Lawrence Montreuil said in a news conference on Thursday that “this delay continues because of political games. … The genesis of this bill arose from the fact that 70% of veterans with burn-related illnesses were denied access to health care as a result.

“Sick veterans couldn’t handle the burden of proof. Every day this delay continues, veterans can’t get care. This is wrong.”

US Army veteran Aleks Morosky, of the Wounded Warrior Project, said: “If we pass the PACT Act today, that promise for veterans with venomous wounds would finally be fulfilled. But instead, that promise is still being broken. .”

Comedian Jon Stewart, who also advocated more comprehensive health care for 9/11 rescuers, spoke out on the grounds of the US Capitol.

“Their voters are dying and they’re going to get it done at recess,” Stewart said. “This is a shame.”

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