UPDATE: Appearing at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Jon Stewart called out Republicans by name for blocking legislation to extend health care benefits to veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits.
In expletive-laden remarks, Stewart said, “Ain’t this a bitch? America’s heroes, who fought in our wars, outside sweating their asses off, while these mother-f—ers sit in the air conditioning, walled off from any of it.”
Stewart cited a tweet from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), in which he wrote of an event on Wednesday, “I was honored to join @the_uso today and make care packages for our brave military members in gratitude of their sacrifice and service to our nation.” “I’m used to the hypocrisy,” Stewart said. He then called out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, contending that he lied to veterans he met with, and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), claiming he would not meet with veterans groups.
“I’m used to all of it, but I am not used to cruelty,” Stewart said.
He noted that the legislation initially passed the Senate in a vote of 84-14 in June.
McConnell said that the bill included an “accounting gimmick,” arguing that it would open up “hundreds of billions” in unrelated spending. He called for a vote on an amendment proposed by Toomey.
Stewart called Toomey’s objections to the legislation — that it would create a “slush fund” –“nonsense,” noting that the senator and other Republicans consistently back defense bills with few spending guardrails.
“Did Pat Toomey stand up and say, ‘This is irresponsible. The guardrails! No. Not one of them did. They vote for it year after year after year. You don’t support the troops. You support the war machine.”
Pointing to the Senate side of the Capitol, Stewart said, “If this is America First, then America is F–ed.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that another vote is scheduled for Monday night. Republicans deny that their opposition was triggered by Democrats’ plans to revive a climate and drug pricing bill. Shortly after Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced a surprise agreement on the legislation, GOP lawmakers blocked the veterans bill.
PREVIOUSLY: Jon Stewart lashed out at Senate Republicans for blocking long-sought legislation to extend health care benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of military engagement.
The bill, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate on Wednesday. Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting for it, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer voted “no,” a procedural move to bring the legislation back for reconsideration.
The legislation looked to be on its way to receiving substantial bipartisan support until Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) urged members this week to vote against it, claiming that the bill contained a budget gimmick to open up $400 billion in spending “unrelated to veterans care.”
Stewart, host of a series for Apple TV+, said in one of his tweets, “Congratulations @SenToomey You successfully used the Byzantine Senate rules to keep sick veterans suffering!!!! Kudos! I’m sure you’ll celebrate by kicking a dog or punching a baby…or whatever terrible people do for fun!!!!!” He later added, “PS F— the R caucus and their empty promise to our veterans.”
To Toomey’s argument against the bill, Stewart wrote, “I call bulls—.”
Stewart has been an advocate for expanding health care to veterans exposed to the burn pits, appearing multiple times on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to act but also to warn of efforts to obstruct the legislation. Earlier this year, he warned of efforts to water down the legislation. “F— that. Not happening. They get what they deserve — comprehensive bill that addresses the urgent need in their community,” Stewart said. The more comprehensive bill ended up passing.
The military has used burn pits to incinerate waste, hazardous material and jet fuel, but troops that have breathed the toxic fumes have reported a range of illnesses. President Joe Biden has suggested that the brain cancer that killed his son, Beau, may have been linked to his exposure to burn pits when he served in Iraq and Kosovo.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said at a press conference on Thursday that Republicans “voted against the men and women who fight for this country.” He had called the opposition to the legislation an “eleventh hour act of cowardice” and warned that “more veterans will suffer and die as a result.”
Toomey argued that the PACT Act “would enable an additional $400 billion in future discretionary spending completely unrelated to veterans. By failing to remove this gimmick, Congress would effectively be using an important veterans care bill to hide a massive, unrelated spending binge.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), appearing with other Democrats but also mirroring Stewart’s anger, said at the press conference, “This is total B.S. This is the worst form of over-politicization I have ever seen.”
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