Comedian Jon Stewart gave a speech on Tuesday calling on the U.S. Senate to pass a bill expanding benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and criticizing the lack of Republican support in the Senate. Senate Republicans currently support a different bill to provide health care benefits to veterans exposed to burn pits.
“You see the entire veteran community standing together united as one to get this done and it’s going to come down to what it always comes down to here – we need 10 Republicans that’s it,” Stewart said. “After 20 years of fighting, that’s what it’s going to come down to. Ten Republicans and the veterans finally get the healthcare and the benefits that they fought so hard for, that they earned, that they are sick and dying for.”
“You’re going to hear a lot of nonsense about ‘is this responsible,'” Stewart added. “They’re all going to say the same thing, ‘we want to do it, we want to support the veterans, but we want to do it the right way, we want to be responsible.’ You know what would have been nice? If they had been responsible 20 years ago and hadn’t spent trillions of dollars on overseas adventures, if they had been responsible and not spent billions of dollars on defense contractors that poisoned our troops.”
Moments later, Stewart said, “Let’s dig a giant fucking pit 10 acres long and burn everything in Washington with jet fuel and then let me know how long they want to wait before they think it’s causing some health problems” adding, “here’s the bottom line: you cannot be American first when you put veterans last.”
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) raised some objections to the Honoring Our Pact Act on Tuesday. Moran supports a different bill to provide benefits to veterans affected by burn pits, known as the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act, which he co-sponsored with Sen. John Tester (D-MT). The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act passed in the Senate in February in an unopposed Feb. 16 voice vote.
“Sen. Tester and I are working together to create a fair, transparent and responsive process for toxic-exposed veterans beginning with the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act which unanimously passed out of the Senate,” Moran said Tuesday.
The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act has since gone on to the House of Representatives, but no vote has been taken.
The Honoring Our Pact Act passed in the House earlier on March 3 with the support of all Democrats and 34 Republicans.
“The House has chosen thus far to not to take up that important legislation and instead decided to send us the bill we will be reviewing today, the PACT Act,” Moran said Tuesday. “While the PACT Act includes the critical Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act, signaling broad support for the legislation, it also includes provisions that will stretch the VA beyond its operational capacity, effectively providing no guarantee that toxic-exposed veterans will be able to access benefits.”
Moran has not indicated he would oppose the Honoring Our Pact Act, and has instead indicated his plans to “improve on the bill.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who regularly caucuses with the Democratic party, also questioned what he described as added “bureaucracy” in House’s burn pits bill.
“I would hope that we can all agree that if we’re spending a dollar on VA healthcare we’re spending it on healthcare rather than bureaucracy to see if that person should get healthcare,” Sanders during a hearing on the Honoring Our Pact Act on Tuesday, ABC reported.