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Senate passes veterans health care bill championed by Sen. Tester

Sen. Jon Tester
Freddy Monares
Montana Public Radio
Sen. Jon Tester

The U.S. Senate Tuesday evening passed a bill to expand health care benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

With a bipartisan 86-11 vote, the PACT Act can now head to the president’s desk after a snag delayed its passage due to Republican concerns about excess federal spending.

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, spoke on the chamber floor shortly after the bill passed.

"We put politics aside. We delivered results through action, through real action," he said. "And we said thank you to the men and women who have served in our military."

Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines voted for the bill Tuesday after voting against it last week. The text of the bill did not change during that time.

Daines said in a statement he is disappointed the bill did not pass with amendments to its funding mechanisms, but the “PACT Act passed with my full support.”

Daines’ office previously told MTPR that Democrats must either invest in veterans health care or a separate spending package that includes key provisions of President Biden’s economic and climate agenda.

About 66,000 Montana veterans were likely exposed to toxic substances during their service, according to data from the VA.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.