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.”
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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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