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PACT Act briefly stalled, then overwhelmingly approved by U.S. Senate

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy ultimately voted for the bill in a second vote.

LOUISIANA, USA — Update: The U.S. Senate voted overwhelming on Tuesday night to approve the PACT Act. The bill, which expands health care benefits to veterans who developed illnesses due to exposure from burn pits was approved in an 86-11 vote.

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy ultimately voted for the bill. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden's desk.

"I always was going to vote for final passage," Cassidy said. "I voted against it on a procedural basis, but voted for final passage."

Cassidy spoke with Eyewitness Morning News anchor Sheba Turk to discuss his votes on the legislation and Republican lawmakers' decision to drop opposition for the bill.

Original Story Below

Senator Bill Cassidy is defending why he, and other republicans, voted against a bill to fund treatment and end-of-life care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

He said the bill will eventually go through with more financial accountability,
but one local democrat said making the bill partisan is shameful.

The issue involves 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits during service. Brian Fladmo, commander of the American Legion post in Ponchatoula, saw the pain in his fellow veterans.

“They're having breathing problems. They're, you know, it's affected them to where now they have asthma, just pulmonary problems. They're fatigued,” U.S. Army veteran Brian Fladmo said.

Even worse, there is cancer and early death. Then, there’s the stress of not getting the medical help.

“And they're having to fight to be able to get reimbursements, so they can get the medical care and they have people that are taking care of them at home,” Fladmo said.

Senator Bill Cassidy said he and his republican colleagues are very much for the PACT Act that would financially support treatment for these veterans, but he says he voted against the bill in it's current form because of glitch, a typo that puts $400 billion in a budget column where it can be spent on items other than veterans, and increases the deficit.

“When I explained it to our veterans, they were fine. They know the bill eventually passes, but they don't want wasteful government spending any more than anybody else, and I found that they were OK with where we were,” Cassidy said.

 “I was disgusted, quite frankly, that the Senate did not see fit to honor these men and women who happen to be republican, democrat, black, white, and everything else,” Congressman Troy Carter of District 2 said.

When asked what about Cassidy’s claim that he, and other republicans, want that extra $400 billion to go to the veterans, rather than be in a budget where it can be used for things not related to veterans, Carter replied, “Well, the way it works, it is going to veterans and the way it's designed it is to go to veterans.”

“The VA still gets the same amount of money in the Toomey amendment passes, but what it does do is it provides at least a little bit of financial discipline,” said Cassidy.

Veterans just want action now.

“I mean, you hope that you can get it to them in time to be able to cure them, before they end up dying from this  cancer,” Fladmo said.

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RELATED: Veterans 'angry and confused' at GOP reversal on burn pit bill

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