Senate Democrats, Republicans say they reached deal to move forward on 'burn pit' bill to help vets

The bill stalled last week after a spending disagreement
Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Senate Democrats and Republicans said Tuesday they have reached an agreement on a measure that if passed will expand health benefits for military veterans who contracted illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic burn pits while in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Senate Republicans last week held up passage of the measure, known as the PACT Act, over the spending process.

Led by Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Tommey, they opposed shifting $400 billion in Department of Veterans’ Affairs spending for the measure from discretionary to mandatory.

Toomney called a changed a "budgetary gimmick" and along with 24 other Senate Republicans pulled their support for the measure until they got an amendment vote on the matter. Mandatory spending would essentially allow funding for the measure to be renewed every year without a vote.

"We expect to have an agreement on the PACT Act with amendments," Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said Tuesday. “I believe it will pass and pass this evening. So, that's very good news." 

The Senate will vote on three amendments to the original bill, including those from Sens. Pat Toomey and Rand Paul, a Texas Republicans. Each requires 60 votes to be adopted, which is unlikely considering the chamber has only 50 Republicans.

"We offered a path to pass the PACT Act today that would allow for the consideration of three amendments, including my amendment at a 60 vote threshold. Let’s see if @SenSchumer can take yes for an answer," tweeted Toomey, who has acknowledge the overall measure has support from about 85 senators.