Veterans Vow to Protest at Capitol Until Toxic Burn Pits Bill Passes

Veterans Vow to Protest at Capitol Until Toxic Burn Pits Bill Passes

Over the weekend, veterans and advocates hunkered outside of the Capitol, demanding that Republican senators drop their opposition to a bill that would provide healthcare to veterans suffering from exposure to toxic burn pits.

According to The Hill, last Wednesday, Republicans blocked passage of the “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022” or the “Honoring our PACT Act of 2022.” If passed, the bill would help an estimated 3.5 million veterans.

The Senate is expected to hold another vote on the legislation this week. But those protesting outside said they were tired of waiting.

“These veterans don’t have time!” Natalia Kempthorne-Curiel said, who traveled with her father Nathan Kempthorne for the protest. “They need health care now, and if they don’t get it, they’re dying!”

“No one should have to deal with this,” she continued. “They shouldn’t have to deal with this. They shouldn’t have to be outside while they’re suffering already!”

Initially, the Senate had passed the PACT Act by a vote of 84-14 in June. And later, the House passed it in July by a vote of 342-88. But the Senate needed to re-pass the bill due to the House’s technical corrections.

And so last Wednesday, in a vote of 55, the Senate failed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster. The vote failed to pass because 25 Republican senators, who originally supported it, changed their vote to oppose it.

“We had so much support and we celebrated that the Republicans and Democrats could come together and do the right thing,” Susan Zeier stated, whose son-in-law’s name is in the bill’s title.

“And to pull this out from under us at the eleventh hour, it’s really cruel,” she added.

If passed, the PACT Act would expand eligibility for benefits to post-9/11 veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits, which the military widely used for waste disposal.

On Monday, conservative pundit Jack Posobiec appeared alongside comedian Jon Stewart and Grunt Style co-owner and veteran Tim Jensen.

Stewart, who was seen arguing with Posobiec earlier, said in a video smiling, “I lost my temper a little bit. I felt like I was being trolled. And I realize that the important thing is, we just gotta get this done for these guys and get them over the finish line and get them the healthcare they need.”

The three men were seen later smiling and shaking hands.

Rosie Torres, the founder of the nonprofit organization Burn Pits 360, was among those responsible for organizing a demonstration outside the Capitol. She says that “every day that they delay is another veteran that dies. So, we will be here until we get the vote passed. We’re not going anywhere.”

If passed by Congress, the legislation is likely to be signed by President Joe Biden as he has expressed in the past his personal attachment to the issue of toxic exposures. Biden believes that his son Beau Biden’s death, due to cancer, in 2015 was connected with his exposure to toxins during his military service.

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