The bill — like many issues related to veterans' health — had amassed deep bipartisan support, and easily passed the Senate by an 84-14 vote in June. But a technical error required another vote, and this time, more than two dozen Republicans switched sides. The final tally was 55-42 (with three senators abstaining), falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Who changed their votes — and why Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has been leading opposition to the bill, and voted against it both times.
In remarks on the Senate floor, he decried it as a "budgetary gimmick" that would create $400 billion in unrelated spending by moving it from the discretionary to mandatory category. His office has said his proposed technical fix wouldn't reduce any spending on veterans or limit the expansion of care.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that he supports the substance of the bill, but not the "accounting gimmick," and accused Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of trying to block Toomey's amendment.
But those same spending concerns didn't seem to pose an initial concern for the more than two dozen Republicans who voted for it last month only to abruptly change their stance. They are: Sens. John Barrasso, Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, Mike Braun, Bill Cassidy, John Cornyn, Tom Cotton, Kevin Cramer, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst, Deb Fischer, Bill Hagerty, Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Jim Inhofe, Ron Johnson, John Kennedy, Roger Marshall, Mitch McConnell, Rob Portman, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Dan Sullivan and Todd Young. Sens. Additionally, Sens. Steve Daines and Roger Wicker voted against the bill after not voting in June.
A bill enhancing health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits won final approval in the Senate on Tuesday, ending a brief stalemate over the measure that had infuriated advocates and inspired some to camp outside the Capitol.