Opinion: There’s a good reason why Jon Stewart is mad at Ted Cruz

Last week, while Senate Democrats voted unanimously to pass the measure, Republicans voted to block the Honoring Our PACT Act, which aims to provide assistance to veterans who have fallen ill from exposure to fireplaces during their military service.
Stewart, the former late-night comedian-turned-activist was arguably the most vocal critic of the GOP lawmakers who rejected the measure in that procedural vote, a move that seemed likely to delay the measure until the return of the legislators from their summer recess in September. .

Veterans don’t have the luxury of waiting another month, he said.

“Tell their cancer to take a break,” he told CNN a day after learning the measure had stalled. “Tell their cancer to stay home and go visit their families.”

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held the new vote on the measure Tuesday night, giving Republicans a chance to prove they actually support the troops they so often pay tribute to.

The GOP tried to score political points by delaying this vital bill that would help an estimated 3.5 million veterans. This problem is literally a matter of life and death for those made ill by exposure to toxins emitted from combustion fireplaces.

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Burn pits were commonly used to burn waste, munitions, hazardous materials and chemical compounds at military sites throughout Iraq and Afghanistan until around 2010. They were often operated on or near military bases, releasing dangerous toxins into the air that could have long-term health conditions. But in the past, more than 70% of claims filed for exposure to the burn pit were denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The PACT law would remedy this. The legislation would provide hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade to help them. And in the future, veterans exposed to fireplaces will now be presumed to have contracted certain respiratory diseases and cancers, which will make it easier for them to obtain disability benefits.

So why did Senate Republicans block legislation that would help millions of vets last week? Could it be that the GOP doesn’t want to give President Biden a legislative victory on an issue he’s championed for a long time — especially so close to November’s midterm elections?

Some speculate Republicans backtracked as part of a backlash after being surprised by the deal announced last week by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – forged in secret with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin – on legislation to fight climate change, help reduce prescription drug costs and increase tax revenue.
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Republican Sen. Ted Cruz — who not only voted against the bill last Wednesday to help veterans but, ignominiously, was seen punching fellow GOP senators in celebration of the legislation’s blockage — claimed that it was because the measure contained a budget ‘trick’.”
Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who was a leading voice opposing the bill, said in a statement after last week’s vote that scuttled the bill that if he were to approve the bill in its current form, “Congress would effectively use a major veterans care bill to hide a massive, unrelated spending spree. Cruz told TMZ that the bill was “part of the spending uncontrollable from the left”.

But Cruz and his Republican colleagues in the Senate in mid-June passed a nearly identical version of the bill, which obliterated the chamber by an 84-14 vote (the 14 “no” votes coming from Republicans).

Stewart, who has been publicly advocating for this legislation since September 2020 (and who has also championed efforts to increase federal funding for 9/11 first responders) cried Cruz on Twitter. “This is not a game. Real people’s lives are at stake…People who fought for your life,” he wrote.
Stewart is 100% right about the Republican game. The PACT Act passed the House last month with only minor changes — but those minor changes prompted another Senate vote. Last week, 25 GOP senators, including Cruz, reversed their previous “yes” votes to block him.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who co-drafted the bill with Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, said Republicans’ explanations for why they withdrew support in last week’s vote did not hold. just not the road.

“My colleagues can invent all sorts of excuses as to why they decided to change their vote for this bill,” he said.

All in all, this amounts to the worst kind of political game, with the lives of American veterans at stake. They deserve much better. And Tuesday night, they got it.

This exhibit has been updated to reflect the latest vote in the Senate.

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