Veterans gathered outside the Capitol building on Thursday to protest some Senate Republicans who on Wednesday stalled bipartisan legislation that would aid around 3.5 million ex-military members who were exposed to burn pits during the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

The PACT Act, a multi-billion dollar bill, passed both the House and the Senate in June, but due to a tax provision, went back for rewording. If passed, it will expand health care access to those exposed to toxic chemicals resulting in suffering, including from terminal illnesses. During the procedural vote on Wednesday, 25 Republican Senators reversed their opinion on the bill.

“This is total bulls–t,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said at a press conference on Thursday. “This is the worst form of politicization I’ve literally ever seen. This is total BS. We had the votes.”

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), who also voted no in June, led the opposition to the bill, arguing that the money is unaccounted for. Toomey argues that the language allows money to be moved from discretionary to mandatory spending. This means that $400 billion would be freed up under the caps, allowing the money to go toward anything. He says, however, he does support the legislation but wants to do it in accordance to “sound fiscal policy.”


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He responded to those criticizing him for using the PACT Act to get back at Democrats after Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York) passed a huge climate and economic bill earlier this week. It was part of President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better social spending bill that was heavily opposed by Republicans.

“That’s so absurd and dishonest for anyone to suggest that it has anything to do with BBB,” Toomey said. “Who knew about BBB, you know, previous weeks when I’ve been raising this issue for all this time and I’m very clearly on record about this. So someone has to be willfully ignorant of the facts or dishonest.”

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