Isolating with COVID, Murkowski wasn’t present for the July 27 Senate vote to block the PACT Act — a Republican defection which many interpreted as an effort to punish Democrats for flanking them on a major climate bill. Murkowski’s office subsequently issued a strong statement in support of veterans. Alaska’s junior Sen. Dan Sullivan was among the senators who voted against the bill on July 27, and later voted to support it on August 2. In this photo, Sen. Murkowski speaks in Sitka in February, 2020. (KCAW/Woolsey)

A bill to provide additional medical care for military veterans exposed to toxic hazards passed the US Senate on Tuesday (8-2-22) with broad support – but not without a bit of gamesmanship first.

The PACT Act, or Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, passed the senate 86-11 on Tuesday, with both of Alaska’s senators, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, voting in favor.

A few days earlier, however, the bill was blocked on a routine procedural matter, when 30 Republican senators voted against it.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was one of the thirty; Sen. Lisa Murkowski was not – but, she was out with COVID at the time her fellow Republicans blocked the bill, and was unable to vote.

Her office, nevertheless, sent out a statement expressing her full support for the bill, and how it will now require the Veterans Administration to serve patients who’ve suffered toxic exposure. Here’s an excerpt:

“Right now the VA is denying approximately 70 percent of these of these Agent Orange and toxic exposure claims,” said Murkowski. “That’s not acceptable. That is just not right. We have to uphold our commitment to the millions of our veterans that we have asked to fight for freedom around the globe. And so the effort that we have made to address this is one that is long overdue. For those who are suffering, know that your nation respects and honors you, and we are going to be there to provide for the care and the promise that we made to you when you swore to uphold and defend the Constitution and our country.”

The failure to move the popular bill through the Senate on July 27 was widely criticized.  On July 28, a clearly angry Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut spoke from the Senate floor, saying “There’s really only two explanations. The more charitable explanation is that 30 Republicans just changed their minds…. The less charitable explanation is that Republicans are mad that Democrats are on the verge of passing climate change legislation and have decided to take out their anger on vulnerable veterans.”

The climate legislation Sen. Murphy refers to is an historic $369 billion spending plan designed to reduce carbon emissions in the US by 40-percent by 2030. The measure is folded into legislation called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and is immune to senate filibuster by Republicans, although it must first pass a closely-divided House of Representatives.