A heated exchange between Jon Stewart and Jack Posobiec outside the Capitol is drawing further attention to the divide over a bill to help military veterans injured by toxic burn pits.
This legislation, the PACT Act, provides funding for healthcare for military veterans sickened by exposure to toxins. It overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Congress in June. Last week, 25 Senate Republicans unexpectedly withdrew their support and blocked it.
Few people were as angered by this as liberal comedian and political commentator Stewart, who is among the most ardent supporters of the PACT Act. Stewart went on a media blitz that included profanity-laced diatribes and attacks on Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for withdrawing their support.
Cruz and other Republicans claim Democrats snuck a provision into the legislation to allow them to spend $400 billion on things unrelated to veterans’ healthcare. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) has also proposed amending the bill to add an annual spending cap and sunset it in a decade, which would necessitate both chambers to vote again.
Democrats reject both arguments. They say the bill’s text prohibits using its funds on anything but veterans. They’ve accused Republicans of playing politics with veterans’ care and claim that they’re using the PACT Act as leverage for other legislation.
It is true that the PACT Act was amended after both chambers passed it in June. But that amendment doesn’t have anything to do with the toxic exposure fund, which was in the bill before the Senate’s vote. Military Times reports that “a technical correction mandated another set of votes.”
In a detailed Twitter thread that Stewart himself referenced, @corytitus explained that the new version simply removes a portion that stated, “A contract buy out for a covered health care professional under subsection (a) shall not be considered a taxable benefit or event for the covered health care professional.”
The heart of the disagreement centers on that $400 billion toxic exposure fund that Republicans claim Democrats used a “gimmick” to alter so they can spend it however they want. The text of the PACT Act requires these funds to be spent on healthcare for veterans injured by toxic burn pits, however.
On Monday, far-right commentator Posobiec attempted to engage Stewart outside the Capitol where the latter has joined veterans staging a sit-in to pressure Congress to pass the bill. Stewart, whom Posobiec called a “liar” and told to “shut the funk up” on Twitter on Saturday, blew up at him in a videoed exchange.
Footage posted shows an outraged Stewart yelling at Posobiec, “These people have suffered for 15 years. Cause you’re a fucking troll. You’re a troll. Not a good thing.”
Stewart and Posobiec may not see precisely eye to eye about the bill, but both publicly support it. After their dust-up, they filmed a subsequent video in which Stewart acknowledged losing his cool.
“I lost my temper a little bit, I felt like I was being trolled,” Stewart said. “I realize that the important thing is we just gotta get this done for these guys and get them over the finish line to get them the healthcare they need.”
“We’re at 98%,” Posobiec said. “Let’s get it over the last 2%.”
They then shook hands.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to schedule a vote on the PACT Act on Monday night.