The Senate adopts the bipartisan PACT Act to reduce exposure to burn pits and Agent Orange.
The bipartisan PACT Act was approved by a vote of 86 to 11 on Tuesday, after a protracted sequence of procedural maneuvers. In an unexpected action one week ago, 42 Senate Republicans prevented consideration of the legislation. Veterans maintained a round-the-clock “fire watch” on the Capitol steps for five days until politicians gave up. Potentially, the plan would give additional assistance to around 3.5 million veterans, or roughly one in five Americans today. Tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have gotten unusual respiratory diseases and malignancies.
Smoke from enormous burn pits used to dispose of military garbage is thought to have contributed to the diseases. The law would expedite disability payments to these people, who would get up to several thousand dollars each month. It would also formalize recent modifications to the VA’s approach to various hazardous exposure claims from the military. The House decided to go forward with the bill, and senior Republican leaders approved it. Last week, however, when the legislation returned for procedural votes, all but eight Republicans in the Senate opposed it.
They reported additional worries about budgetary accounting difficulties. The amendment was defeated by 47-48 just before final adoption. President Joe Biden has already signed the bill into law when it arrives at the White House. Advocates anticipate a major public signing ceremony for the measure to become law in the coming days. Advocates demonstrated for weeks outside the Capitol, with scores of veterans camping on the Capitol Hill steps. Supporters, including the White House, contributed to the effort by sending water bottles and pizzas and making regular visits to converse with soldiers.