(The Hill) – The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation expanding care for veterans who suffer from illnesses because of exposure to toxins during their military service, ending a standoff after Republicans blocked the bill last week.

The Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act passed with a vote of voted 86-11 and aims to expand benefits from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to 3.5 million veterans.

The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk and he is expected to sign it.

Tuesday’s vote comes after Senate Republicans unexpectedly blocked the bill during a procedural vote last week. The upper chamber on Wednesday voted 55-42 in favor of the bill, failing to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. Twenty-five Republicans who initially voted to advance the bill in June changed their votes.

The upper chamber previously passed the bill in June by a vote of 84-14, and the House passed the bill in July on a bipartisan 342-88 vote. The measure had to go back to the Senate, as the House version included changes.

Republicans have argued that the bill would create a “budgetary gimmick” by moving $400 billion spent by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to mandatory spending, where it wouldn’t be subject to annual appropriations like discretionary spending would.

Earlier on Tuesday, GOP Senators reached a deal for votes on three amendments, with 60 votes needing to pass the measures, followed by a vote on final passage of the bill.

Veterans’ groups have been camping outside the Capitol since last Thursday in a bid to pressure the Senate to pass the bill. Those same veterans, joined by comedian Jon Stewart, sat in the Senate Gallery to observe the vote.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) thanked the advocates for their efforts, saying they could “go home knowing the good and great things you’ve done for America.”

In addition to expanding VA eligibility for toxic exposed-veterans, the legislation also adds 23 burn pit and toxic-exposure-related connections to the agency’s list of presumptive service connections.

The bill also expands presumptions related to exposures to Vietnam War-era Agent Orange to veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Guam.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, voted in support of the legislation, but Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, voted against it.

Inhofe issued the following statement:

“I am proud to support this final piece of legislation paving the way for those who have sacrificed for this country to receive the care they deserve,” Inhofe said. “This legislation, when enacted into law, will expand Veteran Affairs health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans and create a framework to ensure continued care for veterans suffering from illnesses related to toxic exposure. While I hoped to pass Sen. Toomey’s commonsense amendment to the original bill, I am glad were finally able to consider amendments on the Senate floor under regular order. I commend Sens. Moran and Tester for their leadership and am proud to stand alongside my colleagues on this important issue.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe

And Lankford said the following:

“I stand fully behind keeping our promise to care for veterans who were injured or developed chronic illnesses due to their service to our nation. Thousands of veterans are already receiving care for their exposure to toxic burn pits and Agent Orange, but this bill would remove the science of presumptions and greatly lengthen the waiting period for all veteran care,” said Lankford. “Oklahoma veterans continue to share their frustration with the length of time it takes for the VA to get through its paperwork and care backlog to offer their quality services to our veterans.

This bill will add more delays to service-connected veteran care by increasing care requirements for complications that may not be service-connected. The bill does not increase community care for veterans or increase beneficial information from community care. It simply expands eligibility without increasing capacity. All veterans should be evaluated by medical professionals to determine their ongoing treatment needs relating to their service. We must do better at serving those who have given their lives for our nation. We cannot worsen the VA backlog and make it even harder for Oklahoma veterans to get the care they need.”

Sen. James Lankford