It apparently took an impassioned, at times tearful, verbal lashing by comedian Jon Stewart to prompt a House committee to approve legislation authorizing money for healthcare coverage needed by 9-11 first responders, many of whom are suffering from serious health issues caused by their heroic efforts on that fateful day.
This past Tuesday, Stewart testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, during which he excoriated subcommittee members who did not attend the hearing, calling them "shameful" and saying they caused "a stain" on the institution of Congress. A little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats.
Stewart told the lawmakers that it took just five seconds for emergency personnel to respond when America was attacked that day in New York. But, he said, Congress couldn't be bothered to extend the legislation needed to extent the the Victim Compensation Fund, which had only been authorized through the end of 2020. The program provides financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including cancer, after the 2001 attacks.
Stewart said he was sick of politicians handing him their business cards and pretty much patting him on the head and sending him on his way.
"More of these men and woman are going to get sick and they're going to die, and I'm awfully tired of hearing this is a 'New York issue,'" he said. "Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America."
The legislation in question is the Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019, reauthorizing the Victim Compensation Fund. It is sponsored by several members of the New York congressional delegation, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats, and GOP Rep. Peter King. It also has the support of New York's two Democratic senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Approved unanimously by the full Judiciary Committee Wednesday, the bill is expected to quickly be passed by the full House of Representatives and sent to the Senate. It is not known if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will take up the bill, although Schumer is said to be "imploring, pleading, even begging" McConnell to bring the bill to the floor as soon as it passes in the House.
If they don't, they need to be kicked out of Congress. Simple as that.
And where is President Trump on this issue? You'd think that since he brags about being such a strong supporter of police, fire fighters and other first responders, and since he's made his fortune in New York, he'd be leading the charge to win passage of this program extension.
But, not so much.
Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), said Thursday that even though the bill boasts strong bipartisan Congressional support, a boost from the White House would certainly help.
“Quite honestly, it would also be helpful if the administration would kind of weigh in and I haven’t really seen any specific indication from them on where they stand,” Schaitberger told Hill.TV on "Rising."
"I do find it interesting that with the president and an administration that does offer their strong support for law enforcement, first responders on a bill that’s so critically important, we haven’t seen any indication of that support at least at this time,” he added.