The Senate passed a bill Tuesday reauthorizing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. The vote was 97-2, with only Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) objecting to extending the fund, which offers health care compensation to survivors and first responders, beyond its previously scheduled expiration in 2020. The House of Representatives passed the bill overwhelmingly earlier this month, which means it will now move to President Trump’s desk, where he is expected to make the extension official.
Few people were happier than Jon Stewart, who has long advocated for 9/11 survivors. After the vote was official, he delivered an emotional address, flanked by New York’s two senators, Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), as well as a group of first responders who’d joined Stewart in the fight to get Congress to reauthorize the fund. “I think we can all agree that I’m the real hero,” he began to laughs, before getting serious.
“We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them,” he said. “And today is that day that they can exhale. Unfortunately, the pain and suffering of what these heroes continue to go through is going to continue. There have been too many funerals, too many hospices, and these families deserve better. I’m hopeful that today begins the process of being able to heal without the burden of having to advocate.”
Jon Stewart: "We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them. And today is that day that they can exhale …I'm hopeful that today begins the process of being able to heal without the burden of having to advocate." @tictoc pic.twitter.com/UWtUkL0CGX
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 23, 2019
“This has been the honor of my life to work with the men and women behind me,” said Stewart.
The bill’s passage comes just over a month after Stewart excoriated a House subcommittee for its apparent indifference to the plight of the 9/11 first responders. “As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process of what getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” he said. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak — to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a shame on this institution.”
A few days later, Stewart went on Fox News to take aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had avoided bringing the bill to reauthorize the fund up for a vote. McConnell later promised he would do so, and, despite Rand Paul’s objection to passing the bill with unanimous consent last week, it was still able to clear the Republican-controlled Senate with ease. After it did so, Stewart was photographed looking not-at-all displeased as McConnell passed.
Mitch McConnell walks by Jon Stewart in the Capitol before a vote on a permanent authorization for funding for 9/11 first responders.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call pic.twitter.com/4xKzGE3QwT
— Axios (@axios) July 23, 2019