Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Sunday defended his party for blocking a bill aimed at supporting military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, lashing out at Democrats for rallying behind a “pseudo-celebrity,” an apparent reference to comedian Jon Stewart.
Stewart, the former “Daily Show” host who for years has advocated for veterans and first responders suffering from toxic exposures, has fiercely criticized the GOP for Thursday’s vote. The bill got the support of only eight Republicans, falling short of the 10 GOP votes needed, and seemed to be a way of getting revenge on Democrats after they brokered a climate deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that caught Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by surprise.
“This is the oldest trick in Washington,” Toomey told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “People take a sympathetic group of Americans — and it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals — craft a bill to address their problems, and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own and dare Republicans to do anything about it, because they know they will unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo-celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn’t be there.”
Toomey urged fellow Republicans to oppose the legislation, saying it contained a “budgetary gimmick” to provide $400 billion in additional spending. The GOP is “not opposed to any of the substance” of the veterans’ bill, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Toomey said he wants the Senate to vote on an amendment he introduced Tuesday to keep the $400 billion “in the category where it’s always been, the discretionary spending category.”
Stewart told ABC’s “This Week” he would support senators getting a chance to vote on the amendment. Toomey’s proposal, he said, wouldn’t make the spending discretionary.
“The Toomey amendment is really about caping the fund. It’s about putting caps on it and giving it a sunset clause for 10 years,” Stewart said.
He continued: “What Toomey’s amendment wants to do is make sure that our sick and dying veterans have the pleasure that our 9/11 first responders at Ground Zero had of having to come back to Washington, hat in hand, riddled with cancer, and march through the halls of the Hill begging for money every year.”
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) also came under fire after they were caught fist-bumping on the Senate floor after the bill failed to pass.
CORRECTION: A prior version of this story listed the incorrect party affiliation for Toomey.