Last week the former host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, who has emerged as a spokesman for the first responders on 9/11 in New York and their advocate for the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, gave an impassioned speech for renewal of the fund before the House Judiciary Committee. Many members of the committee were not present for the hearing, something Stewart made a point of after the “never forget” mantra after 9/11 — Congress apparently had forgotten these heroes.
A day after Jon Stewart blasted lawmakers for their inaction, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to extend the compensation fund for police, firefighters and other first responders to the Sept. 11 attack sites. House Judiciary Committee Approves Funds For Sept. 11 First Responders:
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was established in 2011 to help first responders whose illnesses and deaths were connected to their exposure to toxic substances they encountered at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.
But the fund is nearing depletion. As NPR reported:
“The $7.3 billion fund has already paid out about $5 billion to 21,000 claimants. But it still has about 19,000 additional unpaid claims to address.
“With resources rapidly dwindling, the fund said any pending claims will be paid at 50 percent of their prior value. Claims received after Feb. 1 of this year will be paid at 30 percent.”
Stewart, who has long championed the cause of the first responders, criticized Congress for not extending the program, telling lawmakers: “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York urged the chamber’s Republican leadership to bring the bill up for a vote as soon as possible.
“We will reach the point soon, most likely this year, when more will have died from 9/11-related illnesses than on 9/11 itself,” Schumer said.
The self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose “total obstruction” policy has turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, was unmoved by Jon Stewart’s impassioned plea on behalf of the 9/11 first responders. McConnell swats at Jon Stewart over 9/11 fund: ‘I don’t know why he is all bent out of shape’:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday defended his legislative handling of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund after comedian Jon Stewart, an advocate for 9/11 first responders, accused the Kentucky Republican of slow-walking the act’s extension in Congress.
“Many things in Congress have [come] at the last minute. We have never failed to address this issue, and we will address it again,” McConnell said during an interview on Fox News. “I don’t know why he is all bent out of shape. But we will take care of the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund.”
Stewart the day before claimed that the fund “has never been dealt with compassionately” by McConnell, telling host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that the GOP leader “has always held out until the very last minute, and only then under intense lobbying and public shaming has he even deigned to move on it.”
“In terms of getting the 9/11 bills passed, Mitch McConnell has been the white whale of this since 2010,” Stewart added.
Stewart has the advantage of being correct.
McConnell said last week that he has not “looked at it lately,” but pledged Monday that “there is no way we won’t address this problem appropriately.”
“We have in the past. We will again in the future,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also chimed in later Monday to criticize McConnell, sharing on Twitter a Daily Beast story about the Republican’s remarks headlined: “Mitch McConnell Wonders Why Jon Stewart Is ‘All Bent Out of Shape’ Over 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”
“I’ll tell you why,” Schumer wrote online. “Because 9/11 victims are getting sicker, and the last time this bill came up you delayed. @SenateMajLdr McConnell: Ease everyone’s worthy concerns right now by committing to put the bill on the floor for a stand-alone vote as soon as the House passes it.”
Jon Stewart delivered a searing response to the “Grim Reaper” Monday night in a guest appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” ‘I’m bent out of shape for them’: Jon Stewart roasts Mitch McConnell over 9/11 victims fund:
“I’m bent out of shape for them,” Stewart said during an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” referencing the victims and first responders who were injured or became ill because of the 9/11 attacks. “These are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great trillions of dollars war on terror, and they’re currently still suffering and dying and in terrible need.”
Stewart added: “You would think that that would be enough to get Congress’s attention, but apparently it’s not.”
Rather than end the battle of words, McConnell’s pointed comments prompted the comedian to reunite with Stephen Colbert on Monday night. By early Tuesday, the nearly seven-minute clip had amassed more than 1.1 million views across Twitter and YouTube.
After Stewart griped that only a handful of lawmakers showed up to hear testimony from 9/11 survivors about their suffering and medical costs, Colbert played a clip of McConnell writing off that complaint, saying “that frequently happens because members have a lot of things going on at the same time.” McConnell added, “It sounds to me like he’s looking for some way to take offense.”
In response, a wide-eyed Stewart stared into the camera as the audience booed McConnell. “I feel like an a–hole,” Stewart said sheepishly, resting his head in his hands. “You know what, Stephen? Now I feel stupid. This is a huge misunderstanding. I didn’t know that they were busy.”
“I didn’t mean to interrupt them — with their jobs,” he said.
“Honestly Mitch McConnell, you really want to go with the ‘We’ll get to it when we get to it’ argument for the heroes of 9/11?” Stewart said, later condemning the senator for “saying you love the 9/11 community when they serve your political purposes.”
“But when they’re in urgent need, you slow-walk, you dither, you use it as a political pawn to get other things you want and you don’t get the job done completely,” he said.
The 9/11 attacks hit close to home for the New York native, who said in 2001 that he could see the World Trade Center from his apartment in Lower Manhattan, The Post’s Meagan Flynn reported. He used “The Daily Show” to bring awareness to the attacks’ lasting effects on survivors and first responders.
On Monday night, Stewart took a brief break from excoriating the Kentucky Republican to offer him some advice.
“If you want to know why the 9/11 community is bent out of shape over these past, let’s call it 18 years, meet with them tomorrow, as soon as possible, and don’t make them beg for it,” he said, adding that McConnell could pass the funding measure as “a stand-alone bill tomorrow.”
But it only took a second for Stewart to reconsider his suggestion.
“You know what, if you’re busy, I get it,” he said. “Just understand the next time we have a war, or you’re being robbed, or your house is on fire and you make that desperate call for help, don’t get bent out of shape if they show up at the last minute with fewer people than you thought were going to pay attention and don’t actually put it out.”
Instead, he said, the hypothetical fire will be left “smoldering for another five years.”
“I’m sure they’ll put it out for good when they feel like getting around to it,” Stewart said. “No offense.”
And that’s how it’s done, boys and girls.