The Truth About the PACT Act

Learn the truth about the veterans’ bill that, as written, is really an inflationary spending bill disguised.

Jon Stewart, an actual comedian for those who aren’t familiar, and other highly cynical political commentators are claiming that Republicans hate veterans and that Republican Senators should be ashamed for voting against cloture on the PACT Act last week. Republicans are also being blamed for opposing the PACT Act following the announcement on the Schumer/Manchin reconciliation bill, but the fact is that negotiations related to Senator Toomey’s objection have been ongoing for several weeks.

The legislation was couched in the myth that the entire bill, was a veterans’ health care bill, which in part it was. But in whole, it was and remains a spending bill that includes a budgetary gimmick to allow for an additional $400 billion in non-veteran spending, hidden under the veil of a veterans’ health care bill, and will add to our already 40-year record high inflation rate, all while the U.S. is in a recession. Don’t believe us? Even the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s score increased from $283 billion to $667 billion.

The Senate vote on the PACT Act and now the actual bill itself have become a highly controversial political hot potato. The American people, and especially veterans, who the bill was originally intended to help, deserve to know the truth about what is in the legislation.

So, let’s look at the facts to get to the truth on the PACT Act. To provide some background, there are two types of government spending, mandatory and discretionary. Discretionary spending is subject to spending limits put in place by Congress to try to control the spending addiction of many in Congress who would otherwise spend our nation further into bankruptcy, while mandatory spending is not subject to such limits. The latter spending is typically well-defined through an authorization for a federal program, and often includes anti-poverty welfare benefit programs and entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. The funding for mandatory spending is on “auto-pilot” as long as the authorization is in place. In order to change a mandatory spending programs’ funding, Congress needs to amend the law providing for the authorization.

The PACT Act adds $280 billion in new mandatory spending for veterans’ benefits.  However, and this is the cynical part, the Act also enables $400 billion in current law discretionary spending to be reclassified as mandatory spending. The authors of the PACT Act are thus playing a classic Washington shell game, moving $400 billion from one account to another and by doing so giving themselves a new $400 billion discretionary spending slush fund and doing it under the guise or should I say, disguise of a veterans’ health care bill. Even the House Democrats bill as reported out of Committee did not include this budgetary gimmick.

The original purpose of the Act was to help certain veterans and their families. While the Act did this first part, it also allows $400 billion dollars to be spent, and not exclusively on veterans-related items. With the United States in the throes of an economic recession, Senators are being called anti-veteran, when in fact they are working to protect veterans and prevent increased government spending.

It must be stated again, so that we don’t fall victim to the cable TV political pundits who would like to also label us anti-veteran — voting for veterans’ health care is a good thing and a bill that is entirely focused on veterans is most likely a worthy bill – the PACT Act, as written, is not such a bill.  We have seen time and time again, including from the massive pandemic spending, that increasing government spending, without offsets, increases inflation.

An amendment to fix this budget issue has been proposed by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA). CBO has confirmed that the amendment would not impact the underlying policy in the bill or reduce any spending for veterans. However, the amendment would keep the current $400 billion in spending in the discretionary category, as it’s always been, while maintaining the $280 billion in new mandatory spending for veterans.

We the American people, including our veterans, to whom we owe our freedoms, are all dealing with the impacts of the current recession. No one should be playing a political shell game on the backs of veterans in order to establish an unrelated slush fund, which increases inflation.

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