The PACT Act, a new law that expands health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances, will cost $130 billion more than expected.
The act faced a contentious battle on Capitol Hill last summer, with veterans camping out on the steps of the Capitol, and Jon Stewart delivering impassioned speeches knocking Republicans for blocking it, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The legislation itself isn’t controversial, with the bill mainly expanding health coverage for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits post-9/11.
While the content of the bill saw broad bipartisan support, the method and amount drew some scrutiny from fiscally conservative Republicans, objecting to making it “mandatory spending,” meaning Congress would never vote to reauthorize it. The price tag also drew some concerns.
At the time, the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan nonprofit that estimates the cost of legislation, estimated the bill would cost $667 billion. While the cost was steep, the Senate broadly supported it, and the bill passed 86-11. Now, the CBO has recalculated the total cost, and found that it will likely cost $797 billion — $130 billion more than it originally projected.
The CBO didn’t provide an official explanation for the update. Irrespective of the reason for the update, legislators had the impression this would cost far less when they voted on it.
Accurate cost estimates are vital to informed debate on spending and legislation, and legislators and the public should feel confident the price they’re told a bill will cost is correct.
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