With PACT Act passed, Montana Senators focusing on budget reconciliation bill
WASHINGTON D.C. (KFYR) - The U.S. Senate passed legislation aimed at expanding healthcare for veterans Tuesday. Both of Montana’s senators supported the bill, but not without some last-minute controversy.
The PACT Act was expected to pass without any issues last week before Republicans delayed it because some senators claimed the legislation lacked proper spending guardrails. While many are celebrating the bill on Wednesday, Montana’s two senators are now preparing for a bigger battle on the upcoming Inflation Reduction Act.
Months after President Biden called for legislation to help provide better healthcare access for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, the Senate was able to pass the PACT Act with an 86-11 vote. Both Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Steve Daines (R-MT) called it a win for veterans.
“This bill is legislation we envision when we set out to right wrongs of our toxic-exposed veterans. The PACT Act recognizes that responsibility and recognizes the cost of war,” said Tester.
“I was glad to vote for the ‘PACT Act’ to deliver disability and health benefits earned by Montana veterans suffering from toxic exposure that occurred during their military service,” said Daines in a statement.
While it was successful Tuesday, Democrats were left stunned last week when Republicans delayed the passage of the bill. Led by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), Republicans voted against the PACT Act last week, wanting to add an amendment fixing a “budget gimmick” that would allow $400 billion to be used for spending on items unrelated to veterans. While that amendment failed to pass, the vote itself was good enough for Daines to change his vote.
“In recent days, I worked to ensure the VA is held accountable for meeting the needs of these veterans while also preventing big spenders in Washington from funding unrelated programs. While I’m disappointed these improvements did not pass, the ‘PACT Act’ passed with my full support. I look forward to it becoming law in the very near future,” said Daines in a statement.
Besides that, Democrats have also accused Republicans of blocking the PACT Act over the Inflation Reduction Act, which Tester says are mutually exclusive bills.
Daines has called on Tester to deny the Inflation Reduction Act, saying not only will it devastate Montana families, but it also won’t solve inflation concerns. Tester has yet to make a decision on the Inflation Reduction Act and said he is taking a deep dive into the legislation Wednesday afternoon.
“There are several things in it that appeal to me. There’s $300 billion in debt paydown, that would be the biggest reduction in debt since I’ve been here in 15 years. I think giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drugs is something I’ve been hearing about since my state legislature days,” said Tester.
Democrats are waiting to see if they can get enough votes to pass this legislation. Daines is hoping one Democrat will deny the bill’s passage, but will be introducing amendments to help alleviate some of his concerns.
Senators will head for recess on Monday, August 8, and will not return until September 6.
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