So when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Stewart got the bill wrong and accused Democrats of playing a “budget trick” in the PACT bill, which Cruz voted against despite the fact that he supported Bill and veterans, Stewart wasn’t having it.
“What Ted Cruz is describing is inaccurate, not true, bull —-,” Stewart said in a video posted to Twitter.
Stewart mocked Cruz for arguing that Democrats moved “discretionary” spending in the bill to “mandatory.” Cruz referenced the fiscal policy dispute that was first raised this month by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who took issue with how the bill would change accounting for about $400 billion in pre-existing veterans spending to make it exempt from annual congressional appropriations. Cruz was seen punching Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) on the Senate floor when Republicans blocked the bill during a celebration that angered Democrats and veterans groups .
Stewart and Democrats rebutted Republicans’ claims, and the comedian challenged Cruz on Twitter to specifically point out in the bill the $400 billion “blank check or unrelated expenses that were added/introduced.”
“Now I’m not a big-city, Harvard-educated lawyer, but I can read,” Stewart said in a mocking Southern accent. “It has always been compulsory spending, so the government cannot just cut their funding at any time. No gimmicks, no gimmicks, I’ve been there the whole time.
A representative for Stewart did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. When asked to comment, Cruz’s spokesman Steve Guest referred The Washington Post to the senator’s video posted on Twitter Friday night.
“Jon, you’re a funny guy, and I appreciate your commitment to public policy issues. It’s a good thing,” Cruz said, saying he’s a strong supporter of the bill and the nation’s veterans. “But if you want to do it, the facts matter.”
The back-and-forth is over a veterans health care bill that previously enjoyed bipartisan support. The PACTE law would significantly change the way the Department of Veterans Affairs deals with veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances by requiring VA to assume that certain illnesses are related to exposure to hazardous waste incineration, primarily focused on question of the hotbeds of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would remove the burden of proof for injured veterans.
But weeks after a version of the legislation was approved by the Senate in an 84-14 vote on June 16, the bill met a different fate shortly after the House made modest changes. Toomey claimed that the PACT Act authorizes $280 billion in new mandatory spending — which is not subject to annual appropriations — and also converts the $400 billion in previous authorizations from discretionary to mandatory. The senator argued last month that the provision was a budget “trick” that could facilitate massive amounts of appropriate new spending — a claim Democrats have rejected.
On Wednesday, 25 Republicans reversed their vote a month earlier. The final vote was 55 to 42, short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster. Three senators abstained.
Among the Republicans who changed course was Cruz, whose punchline with Daines was met with backlash from liberals as it went viral on social media.
Democrats accused Republicans of voting against the bill in retaliation for a deal announced by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) that allows Democrats to move forward on an economic, health and climate package without a Republican vote.
Stewart, who called Republicans’ rejection of the measure a “punch,” took part in a media blitz this week on channels like CNN, Fox News and Newsmax that had him ripping all 25 GOP senators for their change of heart on the bill. He took aim at Cruz on Friday during an appearance on MSNBC.
“The most despicable part of it all is watching on the Senate floor Ted Cruz bump his fist and then pat himself on the back when they blocked this bill,” Stewart said. He added that Toomey and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were “celebrating their victory over veterans with cancer.”
Later that day, Cruz was approached by TMZ at Reagan National Airport over Stewart’s comments.
“He talks about the PACT law, which is a bill that I support. This is a bill that most senators support,” Cruz told the outlet. After pointing out the budget “trick” cited by Toomey, Cruz said the bill was “part of the left’s out-of-control spending.”
In his expletive-laden video on Twitter, Stewart trolled Cruz and Republicans for suggesting the language was added to the bill by Democrats “or spendthrift fairies.”
“That’s nonsense,” Stewart said. “There is nothing in the bill that is unrelated to veterans’ spending. … It’s for veterans who have suffered the health effects of burns and other toxins. That’s it!”
Cruz, in a video of his own, again cited Toomey’s concern and accused Democrats of tweaking the bill with “pork that will inflate inflation.”
“You are wrong here,” Cruz told Stewart in a tweet.
Fox News’ Jesse Watters joined Cruz in criticizing Stewart for what the host called “stripped drama.”
“I’m not going to blame Jon for not knowing all the facts,” Watters said on his Friday show. “In the future, let’s do this: I’ll do the research and Jon Stewart can do the farming. It’s better for everyone that way. »
Stewart tweeted that Cruz and Watters were “trying to rally the forces of misinformation to try and kill more vets”. He again challenged the Texas senator to “pass the bill you already passed.”
“It’s not a game”, Stewart wrote. “Real people’s lives are at stake…people who fought for your life.”
Eugene Scott and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.