Anger as Republicans block bill to help military veterans exposed to toxins

Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images  

The comedian Jon Stewart ripped into Republican senators on Wednesday, after they abruptly halted a bipartisan bill that would expand healthcare access for military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

The former host of the Daily Show, who now hosts The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV+, has lobbied for the bill.

He called those who switched their votes "stab-vets-in-the-back senators".

He added: "PS: fuck the Republican caucus and their empty promise to our veterans."

The measure, called the Honoring our Pact Act, would make it easier for veterans to access military care related to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam and toxins from pits used to burn military waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A version of the bill passed the Senate 84-14 earlier this year but was sent back to the House for some technical corrections. It easily passed there.

But on Wednesday, 25 Republican senators who previously supported the measure declined to move it forward.

John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told CNN Republicans did not back the measure because Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, was blocking votes on amendments Republicans wanted.

Cornyn also said Republicans wanted to negotiate more, in order to cut out some of the mandatory spending contained in the bill.

Stewart called that justification "bullshit".

Republicans blocked the veterans measure just after Schumer, from New York, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, announced they had reached a deal on a sweeping tax and climate measure.

The Schumer-Manchin announcement reportedly caught Republicans off guard after another big measure, to support the US semiconductor industry, passed the chamber earlier in the day.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who chairs the Senate veteran's affairs committee, said: "Putting this policy off does nobody any good whatsoever."

Tester also issued a strongly worded statement, lamenting an "eleventh-hour act of cowardice" and saying: "Republicans chose today to rob generations of toxic-exposed veterans of the healthcare and benefits they so desperately need - and make no mistake, more veterans will suffer and die as a result."

Stewart also criticized Patrick Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, who urged his colleagues to halt the bill because of the way it allocated discretionary funds, Roll Call reported.

Stewart wrote: "Congratulations Senator Toomey. 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!!!!!"


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