“So it’s not a bitch?” Stewart said Thursday during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “America’s heroes, who fought our wars, sweating it out, with oxygen to fight off all kinds of ills, while these motherfuckers sit in the air conditioning away from it all? They don’t have to hear it, they don’t have to see it, they don’t have to understand that they are human beings.
“And if it’s America first, then America is screwed,” he said.
Stewart said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lied to veterans by saying “we’ll get there” and then voting against the bill. Stewart also criticized Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican who retired at the end of his term.
“Pat Toomey didn’t lose his job. He’s leaving,” Stewart said. “God knows what kind of pot of gold he’s stepping into to pressure this government to shit on more people. I’m used to all this, but I’m not used to cruelty.”
Stewart apologized for his foul language, but then explained what the senators were voting against, with one veteran saying the bill “gives them health care, gives them benefits, allows them to live without becoming addicted, prevent veterans from committing suicide.
“Senator Toomey is not going to hear this because he does not want to sit with this man because he is a fucking coward. Do you hear me?” said Stewart. “None of them will hear it. And none of them will care.”
“What makes the punchline even more devastating is that these people all came here so they could finally tell the men and –” Stewart said off-camera before the press conference, pausing in the middle of his sentence and crying. “Their constituents are dying. And they’re going to after recess? You don’t – tell their Cancer to take a break, tell their Cancer to stay home and go visit their families.”
When asked for a response to Stewart’s comments, a spokesperson for McConnell pointed to his remarks on the floor Thursday morning. McConnell said he supported “the substance of the bill”, but added “even on such important and expensive legislation, the Democratic leader has tried to block the Senate from any semblance of a fair amendment process” .
McConnell argued that the legislation as written “could also allow Democrats to effectively spend the same money twice and allow hundreds of billions of untied new spending on the discretionary side of the federal budget.” He pushed for a vote on a Toomey amendment aimed at cutting the package’s costs.
An earlier version of the legislation passed the Senate in an 84-14 vote in June, but Senate Republicans overwhelmingly voted against a procedural vote Wednesday night that would end debate on the bill. and would prepare it for final passage, with 25 Senate Republicans who backed the previous version of the legislation by voting against the procedural vote.
“This is total bullshit,” said Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York. “It’s the worst form of overt politicization I’ve ever seen. It’s totally BS. We have the votes.”
Gillibrand says she’ll seek unanimous consent on Thursday if she can get speaking time, “and as many times as needed to get this back on the floor.”
“We had strong bipartisan support for this bill. And in the 11th hour, Senator Toomey decides he wants to rewrite the bill,” she said. “How he convinced 25 of his colleagues to change their vote, I have no idea. What is it? It’s a scandal and there must be accountability.”
Susan Zeier, the mother-in-law of the late Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson, for whom the bill is named, called on Republican senators who voted against the bill Wednesday night.
“Senator Rob Portman was the Heath senator,” Zeier said. “They voted against my family. They voted for us all to suffer.”
“They don’t give a damn about veterans. And like someone once said, everyone has pictures with veterans on their Facebook pages on their website, that’s because they don’t support veterans. If you you voted against this bill, you don’t support veterans,” she said. “I’m done. And the next time I come back here, it’ll be better if I sign this fucking bill in the White House.”
A spokesperson for Portman told CNN that the Ohio Republican planned to vote for final passage of the bill, just as he did in the original vote in June, but voted against the procedural motion on Wednesday to express displeasure with the way Democratic leaders had handled the amendment process.
Pelosi said the Republicans’ decision to abruptly change course last night is “very hard to explain. There’s an immorality that 80% of Republicans would say no to.”
“We all share the dismay and all that,” Pelosi said. “We’re not going to stop until we get the job done. I don’t know what we can do to convince Republicans to do the right thing.”
“The Democratic Party leadership doubled down on Senator Tester, Senator Moran, agreed there would be two amendments, Senator Schumer agreed to the same. And then they backtracked on that,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn said Republicans hope to reduce mandatory spending in the final package now that the bill is in limbo.
“This bill will eventually pass, but it will be more fiscally responsible,” he said.
“My opinion was that this had to pass. I want this to pass. I want to do everything I can to make it pass as soon as possible. And I was willing to wait to try to correct the issues that I see with the legislation,” Moran said earlier Thursday. “And not all of my colleagues agree with that strategy.”
Stewart rejected Republican assurances that the bill will eventually pass.
“All cowards. All,” Stewart said. “Now they say, ‘Well, it will be done. Maybe after we come back from our summer vacation, maybe during the lame duck” – because they’re on Senate time. Do you realize you live here? Senate time is ridiculous. These mothers*** live to be 200. They’re turtles. They live forever and they never lose their jobs and they never lose their benefits and they never lose all those things. Well, they’re not Not on Senate time. We’re on human time. Cancer time.
This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect correct spelling by Susan Zeier.
CNN Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.