TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — With only a few days to spare ahead of the August recess, U.S. Senate Republicans reached an agreement to pass a bill that would provide health care for veterans exposed to toxic materials during the time they served.
The vote to pass it came nearly a week after the bill, called the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act – or PACT Act for short, was stopped in its tracks by what Republicans claimed was a budget gimmick. However, after a long few days on the Capitol steps, veterans finally heard the news they were waiting for.
“When we realized that this was going to pass — I mean, I saw veterans weeping openly all, all around us, hugging each other,” said Mike Partain.
Partain is an advocate for veterans and their families affected by Camp Lejeune. He made the trip from Florida to Washington when he heard the act was stalled by one of Florida’s own – Sen. Rick Scott.
Scott and his fellow U.S. Senator from Florida, Republican Marco Rubio, were split on their votes last week, with Rubio voting for the legislation while Scott voted against it.
Scott shared the following statement with 8 On Your Side last week regarding his initial nay vote:
“Senator Rick Scott was proud to support the passage of this important bill in the Senate previously and will support its final passage soon. Unfortunately, Democrats caused an unnecessary delay of this important bill’s passage by inserting a budget gimmick in the text that warranted further discussion. Senator Scott is working with his colleagues to ensure this is resolved quickly so we can provide our nation’s veterans the care they need.”
“Scott didn’t vote for the veterans yesterday, Scott voted to preserve Rick Scott,” Partain said at the time.
Another Floridian, Sheila Kilpatrick, who lost her husband Lonnie Kilpatrick to toxic exposure almost four years ago, is anxious for President Joe Biden to sign the bill into law.
“I know Lonnie is happy. He’s — I know he’s so happy in heaven right now, and this just makes me miss him more,” Kilpatrick said. “But I’m so glad his last wishes are finally fulfilled.”
Despite not knowing each other at the time, Lonnie Kilpatrick served with Brian Moyer in Guam, where they were both exposed to agent orange.
“I actually witnessed spraying take place – on Guam – when I was in the Marine Corps,” Moyer said. “This is good, but we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Moyer hopes to advocate for veterans all across the U.S. who have had their lives changed forever due to toxic chemicals they were exposed to during service.
The next stop for the PACT Act is the president’s desk. President Biden is expected to sign the legislation by Monday of next week.