WASHINGTON -- Republicans continued to express their frustration with their inability to get votes on amendments to the PACT Act, a multi-billion dollar bill that would provide help to millions of veterans who suffered toxic exposure to burn pits during their military service, as Democrats continued to rail against their position, saying Senate Republicans are costing sick veterans precious time.
While the bill remains stalled after a procedural vote failed on Wednesday, Republican Whip John Thune predicted it ultimately will pass with a large number of GOP votes even if Republicans don't get the changes they are seeking.
And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would schedule another procedural vote to break a GOP filibuster on Monday, trying to force the Republicans to let it pass. As of Thursday afternoon, Schumer had not formally scheduled a vote for Monday but has the ability to call for a vote at any time.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, has been pushing for an amendment focused on the funding for the bill for several weeks, placing a hold on the legislation before the July 4 recess. He wants to change it so the funding of the bill is handled through the annual appropriations process instead of being mandatory spending as the Democrats have structured it in the bill.
"I've been raising this since June," he told CNN, adding Wednesday's failed procedural vote had nothing to do with Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin's announcement about a climate, tax and prescription drug package that stunned and angered many Republicans.
"That's so absurd and dishonest for anyone to suggest that it has anything to do with BBB," Toomey said referring to Democrats' original name for their package, Build Back Better. "Who knew about BBB, you know, previous weeks when I've been raising this issue for all this time and I'm very clearly on record about this. So someone has to be willfully ignorant of the facts or dishonest."
Toomey said he has not been offered an amendment vote by Democratic leadership, disputing an assertion from a Schumer that he had offered Toomey an amendment at a 60-vote threshold, but that Toomey turned it down because Toomey wanted the changes added to the bill, not just voted on as an amendment.
"I don't know where they came up with this," Schumer said at a news conference. "We offered Toomey -- he's standing in the way -- the ability to do an amendment at 60 votes just like the bill is a 60-vote bill. He insisted, at least in conversations with some others, saying 'no, no, no. If you don't put it in the bill,' which will kill the bill, 'I'm not going to be for it.' I stand by the offer."
Thune said Republicans wanted the change since the bill first went through the Senate in June.
"The Democrats knew full well what it was we were trying to get and they denied an amendment, " Thune said. "And I think if the Democrats are willing to give him a vote on that amendment, it gets done."
"His argument is that what that does is that frees up a lot of room under the caps for Democrats to spend more money through the regular appropriations process," Thune explained. "So his argument is this is the right policy, we can take care of our vets, but we ought to do it in a way that is consistent with fiscal policy around here, or sound fiscal policy."
Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, echoed many other Republicans that while they know the amendments may fail, they want a vote.
"At least we would have it on record making clear that we told them this does not work in its current form," Rounds said, adding, "You need to be able to hold them accountable later on as this thing blows up."
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