WLOX-TV Biloxi
Miss. senators explain why they voted against bill set to boost veterans benefits

By WLOX Staff

DIAMONDHEAD, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi’s two U.S. senators want veterans to know they support a bill boosting VA benefits for those exposed to chemicals, but they say a funding mistake needs to be fixed first.

Diamondhead Marine Scott Duncan has been following the Veterans PACT Act, which failed to move forward this week. Duncan said political maneuvering is getting in the way of helping veterans.

“You have veterans that are dying day after day after day that need the help, and we need to get this passed so we can help out a lot of veterans. It’s just inexcusable for it not to pass,” Duncan said. “I honestly think it’s some backdoor politics because the bill originally passed 84-14. Then all of a sudden you have all these Republican senators vote nay, and they want to debate on it. Well it was already resolved June 16. They voted on it. Now they’re backtracking and putting politics in front of the veterans and their families, and that’s not fair.”

We asked Mississippi’s senators to explain what happened. Sen. Roger Wicker provided WLOX with the following statement:

“I want every veteran in Mississippi to know that I am fighting for them in Congress. The PACT Act is going to be a great step forward for veterans who have been denied their benefits for too long. Senate Republicans, including me, are also fighting to ensure this legislation does not get hijacked by Democrats to spend billions of dollars on Democrat priorities unrelated to veterans benefits. To stop that from happening, Sen. (Pat) Toomey offered a simple amendment clarifying that this act will only authorize funding for veterans. The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed this amendment will not affect the benefits veterans receive by a single dollar. I support the Toomey amendment, which is why Senator Hyde-Smith and I joined 39 other Republicans in voting to continue considering this bill. I know senators are working to secure this change early next week. I want to see this bill passed as soon as possible – but as always, we need to get it right. We owe it to our veterans and their families to cut unrelated spending and get this legislation ready for final passage.”

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith echoed that sentiment in a statement saying she “fully supports the veterans’ benefits offered by the PACT Act; however, the senator’s previous votes against the Tester substitute amendment to H.R. 3967 and to proceeding to a final vote in June reflect her concerns about how the bill is financed. Her July 27 vote against cloture on the new version, S.3373, is a continuation of those discretionary versus mandatory spending concerns. Senator Hyde-Smith is very anxious for the Senate to have a final product that will be the biggest benefit for veterans.”