To say Jimmy Kimmel “had an interesting” day Wednesday is an understatement.
In Tuesday’s episode of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the late-night host called out U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana for promising to oppose healthcare plans that “allowed insurance companies to turn people with pre-existing conditions away,” as well as “any healthcare plan that had an annual or lifetime cap on how much they would pay out for medical care.” In fact, during his prior TV appearance, Cassidy promised anything he supported would need to pass what he called the “Jimmy Kimmel Test,” inspired by the comedian’s impassioned monologue in May, in which Kimmel revealed his son was born with a rare congenital heart condition. “But unfortunately—and puzzlingly—he proposed a bill that would allow states to do all the things he said he would not let them do,” Kimmel said Wednesday. “He made a total about face, which means he either doesn’t understand his own bill, or he lied to me. It’s as simple as that.”
After Kimmel’s monologue from Tuesday’s episode went viral, Cassidy and his co-sponsor Lindsey Graham spent most of Wednesday defending the plan. “It was a personal attack, and I cannot help that,” Cassidy told NBC News. “But all I can say is if you are in Texas, or if you are Maine, or Virginia, or Missouri, there will be resources in your state that you have not had that can provide you coverage, and we have protections for pre-existing conditions.” President Donald Trump backed Cassidy and Graham, tweeting, “I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace.” Later, the commander-in-chief told his Twitter followers, “Senator (Doctor) Bill Cassidy is a class act who really cares about people and their Health(care), he doesn’t lie-just wants to help people!”
(“It’s certainly frustrating to have to mobilize every couple of months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on our constituents,” Barack Obama said at a Gates Foundation event Wednesday. “But typically, that’s how progress is won and how progress is maintained.”)
Kimmel was perturbed by Cassidy’s interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, in which he “pulled the ‘all comedians are dummies’ card. Oh, I get it. I don’t understand because I’m a talk show host, right? Well, then help me out. Which part don’t I understand? Is it the part where you cut $243 billion dollars from Federal health care assistance?” he asked. “Am I not understanding the part where your state would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having a pre-existing conditions? Maybe I don’t understand the part of your bill in which Federal funding disappears completely after 2026? Or maybe it was the part where plans are no longer required to pay for essential health benefits like maternity care or pediatric visits?” Kimmel pointed out that he’s not alone in this thinking, and several reputable medical associations “vehemently” oppose the bill, too. “Which part of that am I not understanding?”
Kimmel, who earlier in the day retweeted articles from Politico and The Washington Post backing his views on the plan, had another theory: “Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand—and you got caught with your GO-Penis out? Is that possible?”
“When Senator Cassidy was on my show in May, he told me he believed every American family, regardless of income, should be able to get quality health care, and I believed he was sincere. Sadly, the bill he unveiled last week with Senator Lindsey Graham indicates he was not sincere,” he said. “It is, by many accounts, the worst health care bill yet. Senator Cassidy made a pitch that looked pretty good at first—but then it took a dangerous turn and hit us right in the nuts.”
The cause is especially meaningful to Kimmel, as his younger son will have to undergo two additional open heart surgeries, and “there are kids with no insurance in the same situation” whose families do not have the financial means that they do. “I don’t get anything out of this!”
“Brian, you phony little creep—I’ll pound you when I see you,” the comedian told Kilmeade. “That will be my blurb for your next book: ‘Brian Kilmeade is a phony little creep.’ That’s right.”
Kimmel responded to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie‘s criticisms, then laughed at Graham for calling him “garbage” and lashing out at him for not giving Cassidy a heads up before going on-air, therby giving him the “chance to lie to me again over the telephone.” Kimmel decided to lay off Graham for two reasons: “No. 1, he is one of the few Republicans who stands up to Donald Trump. No. 2, Lindsey Graham happens to look a lot like my Grandma Jane, who is now deceased. So I have a soft spot for him. I love you, Grandma Lindsey. I don’t care what you say.”
Kimmel understood that the healthcare bill is “very confusing for those who aren’t experts in this field.” So, to clear things up, the host broke it down “in a special edition of Barista Theater.”
“At the end of my monologue last night, I encouraged Americans who care about this subject to call their Senators and let them know I care. I even gave out a phone number [202-224-3121],” Kimmel said. Though his monologue received “millions and millions of views” on YouTube, he was disheartened to learn that The New York Times today contacted the office of Susan Collins, one of the key senators involved. “They claimed that her call volume she got is ‘the same’ as usual. If that is true, this is why things like this keep happening, because we don’t do anything about them. So please, please stop texting for five seconds and make a call. Especially call these Senators…if you live in these states. It really does make a difference. And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet somebody over the phone and fall in love. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Senate Republicans have been stuck on 48 or 49 votes for the plan; they have until Sept. 30 to get to 50 votes, or their ability to pass a repeal with a simple-majority vote expires. Until then, all eyes will be on Maine’s Susan Collins, Arizona’s John McCain and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.