Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart spoke out against Republican Senators Thursday for blocking long-desired legislation to extend health care benefits for military veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stewart joined a press conference including House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) on Thursday where he minced no words calling out Republican senators who flipped on the PACT Act.
“So, ain’t this a bitch?” Stewart began. “America’s heroes, who fought in our wars, outside sweating’ their asses off, with oxygen, battling all kinds of ailments, while these motherf—ers sit in the air-conditioning, walled off from any of it.
“They don’t have to hear it, they don’t have to see it, they don’t have to understand that these are human beings… these are men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers that we just let stand outside in the heat when they can’t breathe,” he continued.
The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (aka, the PACT Act) did not receive the 60 votes needed to proceed in the Senate this past Wednesday. Only eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill alongside the Democrats, resulting in a 55-42 vote, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switching his “yes” vote to “no” so that the legislation can be brought back for reconsideration.
Originally, the legislation was expected to receive bipartisan support — it passed in the House with a bipartisan vote of 342-88 earlier in July, and as Stewart pointed emphasized during the press conference, it also previously passed in the Senate. “They passed it,” Stewart reminded. “June 16. They passed the PACT Act 84-14. You don’t even see those scores in the Senate anymore.”
However, due to an error, it had to return back to the Senate for a new vote Wednesday, when it then failed to pass.
“Senate’s where accountability goes to die,” Stewart said Thursday morning. “These people don’t care. They’re never losing their jobs, they’re never losing their healthcare,” going on to single out several Republican Senators by name.
However, he saved his harshest invective for Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), who urged members to vote against the bill, claiming it contained a budget “gimmick” that would open $400 billion in spending that would be “unrelated to veterans care.”
“God knows what kind of pot of gold he’s stepping into to lobby this government to s— on more people,” Stewart said.
Before appearing in the news conference, Stewart tweeted: “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!!!!! PS F— the R caucus and their empty promise to our veterans.”
In response to Toomey’s argument opposing the bill, Stewart quote tweeted the Senator saying, “I call bulls—.”
As an activist, Stewart has consistently advocated to expand health care for veterans that were exposed to the burn pits. Stewart has visited Capitol Hill multiple times to speak with lawmakers in an effort to warn those supporting the legislation that those opposed will seriously attempt to prevent the legislation.
“F— that. Not happening. They get what they deserve — comprehensive bill that addresses the urgent need in their community,” Stewart state earlier this year.
The burn pits that have affected the military are used to incinerate waste, including jet fuel and hazardous material. Troops who breathed the toxic fumes have suffered a range of illnesses. The president has even suggested that his son Beau Biden’s brain cancer could be linked to his military service in Iraq and Kosovo and his exposure to the burn pits.
Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester and the current chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee declared that Republicans “voted against the men and women who fight for this country.” Tester continued, “more veterans will suffer and die as a result” and called those opposed to the legislation as participants in an “11th-hour act of cowardice.”