Washington, D.C. (KEYZ) Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester tore into Republican Senators Wednesday for blocking a bill that would expand healthcare coverage for military veterans who were exposed to toxins and burn pits during their service.

"The American people are sick and tired of the games that go on in this body.  They're sick and tired of us working for democrats or working for republicans and not working for the American people, but this is bigger than that," charged Tester from the floor of the Senate Wednesday.

Burn Pit / Department of Veterans Affairs
Burn Pit / Department of Veterans Affairs
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The ‘‘Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022’’ only received 55 of the needed 60 votes to pass a cloture motion on Wednesday, essentially ending debate and moving the bill forward. The bill had been expected to see final passage by the end of the week.

The measure is a version of a bill the Senate passed overwhelmingly in June.  It came back to the upper chamber for consideration because the House made some changes when it approved the earlier bill two weeks ago.

The legislation was supposed to expand health care for post-9/11 combat veterans, related to toxic exposure, and expand the VA’s ability to improve resources to support claims processing.

Railing at his Republican colleagues from the Senate floor Wednesday, Tester claimed the defeat of the bill for which he'd fought so passionately will have a chilling effect on those considering military service.

"We  have an all-volunteer military in this country.  If you don't think young people are watching what we're doing today, that are thinking about signing up for the military, you're sadly mistaken.  And if we don't take care of veterans when they come home, they're gonna say why should I ever sign on the dotted line."

Tester, who also serves as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote to advance the bill.