“They’re allowed to stay open past five,” Stewart said on the US Capitol steps Monday morning, joining burn pit protesters who have remained there over the weekend as the bill remains in limbo. “So my suggestion to this Senate would be when you come back, if all the members aren’t here, keep the lights on. Keep the doors open. And don’t leave here tonight, until you do the right thing by these folks .”
Matt Zeller, a major in US Army Reserves and senior adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, also told CNN’s Kate Bolduan that Republicans should move to support the PACT act now, with no time to waste.
“We’re going to stay here until this gets done because we’re doing this for the people who have died. We’re doing this for the people who are dying,” Zeller said. “And we’re going to do this most importantly for the people who will die if we don’t do this now.”
A new vote is expected to occur early this week but not Monday night, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the matter.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to bring the procedural vote — which requires 60 senators to advance — back up to consider early this week and offer two amendments sought by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania for a vote at a 60-vote threshold. If Republicans accept that offer, it could pass early this week — though any one senator can object and slow the process down.
Stewart has knocked the GOP for holding up the bill’s progress and for misinterpreting the proposal. He traded online barbs with Republican senators’ newfound opposition to the bill that they both voted for in June.
On Monday, Stewart addressed the feud.
“You can attack me all you want, and you can troll me online,” he said. “But here’s the beautiful thing. I don’t give a shit. I’m not scared of you. And I don’t care. These are the people that I owe a debt of gratitude to and we all owe a debt of gratitude to, and it’s about time we start paying it off.”
“Can we please not force veterans, disabled from their heroism and sacrifice, to stand outside the Capitol building, days on end, waiting on this Congress to do the thing they already did on June 16? It passed 84 to 14. Nothing changed in it,” Stewart said Monday.
He added: “Ask any senator, any one of the senators that changed their votes point to the section of the bill that changed that made your vote go from desk to no point to the section of the bill that’s filled with pork point to the section of the bill that is not being spent on veterans.
Toomey said the bill as written would “allow our Democratic colleagues to go on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree.” He has said he wants a vote on his amendment to change the spending categorization before he agrees to allow the bill to come to a vote. It’s unclear as of early Monday whether Schumer’s proposal will be enough to assuage Toomey’s concerns.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.