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Toomey slams Jon Stewart as ‘pseudo celebrity’ in fight over veterans healthcare bill

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is not running for re-election. He is one of the 41 Republicans that voted against the PACT Act on Thursday. The bill will expand healthcare for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. It is meant to provide healthcare for those at an increased risk of developing cancer and respiratory health issues because of exposure to burn pits.

Toomey was interviewed on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday and became the voice of Republican opposition to the PACT Act bill as it is now written. Toomey is known as a budget hawk, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee. He understands federal budgets and knows what to look for in bookkeeping matters. The problem for him is the way the bill is written. Toomey says it includes budgetary gimmicks that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

It is not that Republicans don’t want veterans to receive the healthcare they are entitled to. Toomey is trying to correct a real possibility of an unrelated $400 billion spending spree that has nothing to do with veterans in the bill. Why would anyone trust Democrats when it comes to excessive spending? They love a good slush fund. Republicans have been guilty of excessive federal spending in recent years, too, but for now, Democrats are in charge and playing their games.

“Let me be very clear,” he said. “Republicans are not opposed to any of the substance of the PACT Act. My honest Democratic colleagues will fully acknowledge that my objection, and if I get my way, get my change, it will not change by one penny any spending on any veterans program. What I’m trying to do is change a government accounting methodology that is designed to allow our Democratic colleagues to go on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree that has nothing to do with veterans and that won’t be in the veteran space.”

“They could have agreed to this a month ago and this bill would sail through at any point in time,” he added. “When we strip out this completely unrelated provision worth $400 billion, I will vote for the bill.”

Officials from Sen. Toomey’s office also cited a provision they said was added to the PACT Act right before the debate of the bill on the Senate floor, which stated that any discretionary budget funds related to burn pits could become classified as mandatory spending. They told Fox News his amendment focused only on preventing current discretionary spending — occurring regardless of the PACT Act — from being shifted over to the mandatory spending budget. Any new discretionary funding related to toxic burn pit exposure would still be able to be transferred to the mandatory budget.

The discussion gets a bit into the weeds over discretionary and mandatory funding. Last month the Senate voted 84-14 in favor of the PACT Act and it passed in the House with a majority vote, too. It went back to the House for some revisions and passed again. When it came back to the Senate, that is when Toomey and other Republicans lodged their complaints. That is when the argument over discretionary and mandatory spending began.

When the bill failed in the Senate last week, comedian Jon Stewart furiously called Republican senators who voted against it all kinds of names. He has been involved in supporting the veterans and pushing passage of healthcare legislation for them for several years. He has been interviewed many times since the bill failed and each time is is clear how emotionally involved he is in the legislation.

Toomey wants to present an amendment to the bill. It is reported that Chuck Schumer will bring the bill up again for a vote this week. Toomey defended his fellow Republicans against Stewart’s tirades. Along the way he called Stewart a “psuedo celebrity”, which brought about a response from Stewart. Toomey explained to Jake Tapper how Democrats gain public support for legislation by using celebrities and the media and victims as sympathetic figures. He’s right. Democrats are good at doing that but the media doesn’t want to hear about it.

“This is the oldest trick in Washington. 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,” Toomey told CNN’s Jake Tapper on an episode of “State of the Union.”

Toomey continued: “Because they know, they’ll 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 didn’t specifically mention Stewart’s name but it was clear of whom he was speaking. Stewart has been on television non-stop on all networks doing interviews and demonizing the Republicans who voted against it.

Somehow the Democrats and the Republicans will have to work it out so that Toomey’s amendment that corrects the bookkeeping will make it into the debate. Toomey says the bill will pass without any problems if that happens. Then Biden can preen about a legislative victory. When it passes, it will represent the most comprehensive veterans healthcare reform to date. Biden has shown support for the protesting veterans on the steps of Capitol Hill as they camp out until the bill is passed. He spoke to them virtually during the weekend and he is reported to have sent pizzas over to them. Biden frequently mentions his son Beau’s cancer diagnosis which he blames on exposure to smoke from fire pits during his time serving in Iraq. Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard. Until then, expect lots of name-calling. Kudos to Senator Toomey for being the voice of the Republicans and aggressively pushing back on the demonization of his fellow Republicans.