Jon Stewart has helped fix at least one problem in America. On Tuesday, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to extend health and disability benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in the line of duty—after Stewart flamed Republican lawmakers on social media.
last week, The Problem With Jon Stewart host took to social media and blasted Republican lawmakers who were blocking the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (or PACT Act), which would expand access to health care for veterans who were exposed to burn pits, and subsequently exposed to burn pits, and subsequently diagnosed with rare cancers and respiratory illnesses.
“Congratulations @SenToomey,” Stewart tweeted, calling out Republican senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who urged Republicans to vote against the bill calling it a “slush fund” for veterans. “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!!!!!”
Stewart also took his activism offline, speaking at rallies on Capitol Hill and appearing on multiple network news shows to advocate for the bill. “Ain’t this a bitch?” he said at the Thursday press conference. “America’s heroes, who fought in our wars, outside sweating their asses off…battling all kinds of ailments, while these motherfuckers 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…. I’m used to the lies, I’m used to the hypocrisy…. Senate is where accountability goes to die…. I’m used to all of it. But I am not used to cruelty.”
After failing to reach the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate last week, the PACT Act passed in an 86–11 vote, and now goes to President Joe Biden for signing. Biden has supported the bill and suggested that the brain cancer that killed his eldest son Beau, could have possibly been linked to his exposure to burn pits during Beau’s time serving in Iraq and Kosovo. Senator Toomey ultimately voted against the bill, along with 10 other Republican senators: Mike Crapo of Idaho, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rand Paul of Kentucky, James Risch of Idaho, Mitt Romney of Utah, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
Stewart was present at the chamber for the Senate vote, and hugged veterans after it passed. A longtime fighter for veterans’ and 9/11 first responders’ health care benefits, he was emotional at a press conference after the bill passed. There, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York thanked Stewart for “[letting] the world know what happened” and said that the comedian “put the pressure on people to turn their votes around.”
“I want to apologize for cursing last week. I don’t know what happened. Normally I’m very demure,” the most recent recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor joked after the bill passed.
Stewart went on to shout out one veteran, Leroy, whom he met four years prior and was present at the press conference. “I made a promise to him. I said, ‘I’m not going to let you go my brother, and we’re going to get this done,’” Stewart said. “And guess what? We got it done.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a situation where people who have already given so much had to fight so hard to get so little,” Stewart said. “I hope we learned a lesson.”