NDP’s Harrold responds to failure of Senate to pass PACT Act to help veterans

NOTE: The author, Jim Harrold, chair of the NDP’s Veterans and Military Families Council, writes about the U.S. Senate’s failure on July 27 to advance the PACT Act.


Like many of you and your families, I served and my family served alongside me. Like you, I have friends who have died in service to this nation.
Many of them died months or years after leaving the combat zones they served in due to physical and emotional scars. Many are still with us, some who still suffer those physical and emotional scars.The vote in the United States Senate did dishonor to those friends, those sisters and brothers of ours who have served honorably.

The Senate failed to advance the PACT Act, which would provide additional healthcare to at least three million veterans exposed to toxins such as Agent Orange and the burn pits routinely used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is true that the vote in the Senate was a procedural vote, as it was a vote to end a filibuster on the bill. It is also true that 55 senators, including a handful of Republicans, voted to end the filibuster to allow voting on the bill itself.However, the main reason the bill was filibustered in the first place is that Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) thought the bill was too expensive. Now, it is likely that the bill will eventually get to the floor of the Senate for a vote, but it is unlikely that the bill will look the same.

We were so close to getting justice for millions of veterans. The Senate had already passed a version of the bill that was rejected by the House. After the House finally approved its version and sent it back to the Senate, we now are disappointed to see that the filibuster has stopped it in its tracks. The reality is that no matter what Sen. Toomey says, the bill he and his fellow Republicans have stalled is essentially the same bill that passed the Senate a few months ago.

I am disappointed along with most of you that this is where we are.

Both Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Ben Sasse voted with Sen. Toomey to keep his filibuster in place.

However, here is a quote from Sen. Jon Tester of Montana which is very appropriate at this time: “If you have the guts to send somebody to war, then you better have the guts to take care of them when they get home.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, also had some words for his Senate colleagues on the floor of the Senate. You can watch his remarks here.

Perhaps you are also aware that the Army and others services are having difficulty in meeting recruiting goals. The failure of our leaders to take care of veterans will not help.

I have called and e-mailed the offices of Sen. Fischer and Sen. Sasse to express my disappointment. I hope you will do the same. I also would ask you to reach out to your own networks of Veterans and Families, along with Friends of Veterans, and ask them to do the same. Call your senators.

Contact information for Sen. Fischer: 202-224-6551.Other numbers are at her website.

Contact information for Sen. Sasse: 202-224-4224. Other numbers are at his website.

We have already lost too many good people who survived wars in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in many other places, only to return home and suffer the long-term effects of chemical agents used in the theaters of conflict. How many more must we lose?Your Comrade in Arms,

Jim Harrold

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