WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill that would help our veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits has stalled in the Senate. The move has frustrated not only Democratic Senators, but to veterans, too.
Outside of the U.S. Capitol, comedian Jon Stewart and veterans make their presence known. Holding up signs and calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the “PACT Act”, a bill that would help provide benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
“It’s a great bill for the veterans,” said Erie County Director of Veterans Affairs Joe Benacci. “This bill could effect over three million veterans and create over a million claims. The high percentage of veterans dying from cancer, this is serious stuff.”
But the bill, which had strong bipartisan support, hit a bump in the road last week. The bill failed a procedural step to advance in the Senate, which basically stalls the bill. Senator Pat Toomey (R- PA) said it’s over a budgetary issue.
“My concern about the bill has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill,” said Toomey. “Here’s the problem, completely unrelated to the $280 billion of new spending, there is a mechanism created in this bill it’s a budgetary gimmick that has the intent of making it possible to have a huge explosion in unrelated spending of 400 billion dollars.”
“[Veterans] Waiting for years for the federal government to do something, why the hell should this be held up,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D- PA).
Senator Casey believes part of this hold up is because Republicans are upset about the reconciliation bill, which is a special parliamentary procedure that speeds up passing budget bills. He’s pressing for the bill to pass.
“People on both sides of the aisle in both houses, people across the country agree this is the right thing to do to honor the people exposed to burn pits,” said Sen. Casey.
Benacci shares that same frustration.
“They’re playing cards, they’re playing poker with veterans lives and every day this isn’t passed, we’re losing veterans everyday,” said Benacci.
The Senate could re-vote on this bill later this week.