Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart tore into Republicans as “stab-vets-in-the-back senators” on Thursday after they blocked the passage of a bill expanding health care coverage for military veterans.
“If this is America first, then America is fucked,” an exasperated Stewart said.
The comedian, surrounded by a group of veterans on Capitol Hill, spoke to reporters after GOP senators pulled their support for a bill meant to help those suffering from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam and toxic pits full of burned military waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Though the bill, known as the Honoring our Pact Act, passed through the Senate earlier this year in a 84 to 14 vote, 25 Republicans who previously backed it withdrew their support during Wednesday’s follow-up vote.
The sudden reversal came as a surprise to many ― and an outrage to Stewart, a longtime advocate for veterans and 9/11 first responders.
“Ain’t this a bitch,” Stewart said. “America’s heroes who fought in our wars, outside sweating their asses off, with oxygen, battling all kinds of ailments, while these motherfuckers sit in the air conditioning, walled off from any of it.”
“These are men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers we just let stand outside in the heat when they can’t breathe,” he continued, gesturing at the veterans who appeared with him.
Agent Orange ― a powerful herbicide the U.S. government sprayed on forests in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1961 to 1971 ― is now known to cause cancer, heart disease, severe organ dysfunction, painful skin conditions, and neurological and psychological harm.
Burn pits have been linked to several types of cancer. President Joe Biden has raised the possibility that burn pit exposure in Iraq may have contributed to his late son Beau Biden’s fatal brain cancer diagnosis.
Congress owes exposed veterans the health care improvements offered in this bill, Stewart argued.
“Boy, they haven’t met a war they won’t sign up for, and they haven’t met a veteran they won’t screw over. What the fuck are we?” yelled Stewart, who currently hosts “The Problem with Jon Stewart” on Apple TV+.
One Republican who voted against the measure, Sen. Patrick Toomey (Pa.), said he was opposed to a “budgetary gimmick” that would allow $400 billion in additional spending and urged his colleagues to vote against the bill.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was among the Democrats shocked by her colleagues’ move.
“How he convinced 25 of his colleagues to change their vote, I have no idea. I mean, what the hell?” Gillibrand said at her own press conference Thursday.
Stewart also went after Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who voted against the bill after tweeting out photos of himself making care packages for veterans.
“Did you get the package?” Stewart said mockingly. “I think it has M&Ms in it, and some cookies and some moist towelettes. Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I’ve been coming down for 10 to 15 years ― I’m used to the hypocrisy.”
Stewart has repeatedly appeared before Congress and on late night shows to push for bills that help veterans and first responders. He’s often been credited with helping break deadlock in Congress on such issues.