Jon Stewart slams McConnell for not supporting 9/11 victim fund
On September 11, 2001, the Islamic terrorist group Al-Queda committed a series of terrorist attacks on America. They hijacked four passenger airliners, flying two of them into the World Trade Center in New York City, and one into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. The fourth plane was intended for Washington D.C. but ended up crashing into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after Flight 93's courageous passengers fought back.
The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others, some of whom are still suffering today. When the first responders plunged into Ground Zero to rescue victims, they consumed cancer-causing toxins that created deadly illnesses. More than 580 first responders have died from 9/11-related cancers, as of September 2018, according to the CDC.
Watch Jon Stewart Blast Congress On 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
In order to help the ailing first responders', Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010. They went on to renew it for 90 years in 2015. However, the separate 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which provides financial support to thousands of survivors suffering from medical issues, was only funded until the end of 2020.
Last week, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee on behalf the 9/11 survivors. In a powerful speech, he noted that the chambers were full of survivors, but only a few members of the subcommittee bothered to attend the hearing. Outraged by this injustice, he put Congress on blast.
"Sick and dying, [the 9/11 survivors] brought themselves down here to speak - to no one. Shameful. It is an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution," Stewart said. "It would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign, but it’s not. Your indifference costs these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of."
Watch Jon Stewart slam Senate Republicans on Fox News Sunday
The emotional statement went viral, spurring the House panel to unanimously pass the VCF the next day. However, the bill still has to go through the Republican-led Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could use it as bargaining chip. Over the weekend, Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday to plead his case for the bill, arguing that the survivors shouldn't have to continuously come "hat in hand" to beg Congress for money.
"It’s a very emotional issue I think this community is at the end of their rope. I think there is a feeling of disbelief. They can’t understand why they have to continually have to saddle up and ride down to Washington and make these appeals for something that should be simple, but somehow through politics is made agonizingly difficult."
Following Stewart's testimony, reporters asked Senator McConnell if he supports the VCF, and he did not give a clear answer. "Gosh, I hadn’t looked at that lately," he said. "I’ll have to. We’ve always dealt with that in the past in a compassionate way, and I assume we will again." On Fox News Sunday, Stewart accused McConnell of failing to deal with this issue compassionately in the past:
"I want to make it clear. This has never been dealt with compassionately by Senator McConnell. He has always held out until very last minute, and only then under intense lobbying and public shaming has he even deigned to move on it... In 2010, he used it to make sure the Bush tax cuts would be permanent. In 2015, he took it out of the transportation bill because he wanted to extract some promises on oil imports...
Watch Jon Stewart's emotional reaction to receiving a 9/11 firefighter jacket
"The idea that this is a state issue... It would be like after Pearl Harbor, saying that we’re not going to do anything for people in Pearl Harbor because that’s a Hawaii issue. This was an attack on America. They didn’t shout, ‘Death to Tribeca.’ To try to push this off as a New York issue — I think they do that because they believe New York is reliably liberal and Democratic and it’s not as important to them...
"Not all Republicans oppose this, but everyone who has opposed it is a Republican. It’s unacceptable. They’ve done it now for years. Senator McConnell. Lindsey Graham is the head of Judiciary. He’s the one who’s going to be the one negotiating whether it’s five or 10 years. We cannot make these individuals continue to live in the agonizing uncertainty of not knowing that these programs will be extended and that they will be able to move on with their lives."
Afterward, McConnell responded to Stewart's accusations during a conversation with Fox and Friends. "I don’t know why he is all bent out of shape but we will take care of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund," McConnell said. "Many things in Congress happen at the last minute. We’ve never failed to address this issue and we will address it again."
When asked why so few members of the House Judiciary Committee attended the hearing, McConnell said: "Well that frequently happens because members have a lot of things going on at the same time. It sounds to me like [Stewart] is looking for some way to take offense. There is no way we won’t address this problem appropriately."
Despite treating bills for 9/11 first responders like a political football in 2010 and 2015, McConnell insisted the bill would be funded again.