After lengthy debates, gut-wrenching testimony from first responders and a public shaming of politicians by Jon Stewart, the bill that would permanently authorize funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was passed unanimously by the House panel last month.

Now it’s going to a final House vote on Friday… and first responders are waiting anxiously to see the outcome. 

 

Without a passing vote, the 9/11 Victims Compensation fund is set to run out of money by as early as the end of this year. The original funding was only guaranteed through 2020.

The NY Post reported that the bill is expected to pass, as the legislation has 313 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Jon Stewart just went to war with Congress in support of 9/11 first responders

Jon Stewart just went to war with Congress in support of 9/11 first responders

 

Jon Stewart addressed the members of Congress last month to plead with them to do their jobs.

“People are still getting sick as diseases like cancer emerge after long latency periods. Those already sick are getting sicker, and tragically, many are dying and have died,” Jerrold Nadler said in his opening statement during the hearing.

Stewart, the former “Daily Show” host, pulled no punches, calling out Congress on “callous indifference and rank hypocrisy” in failing to renew the fund. 

“Why this bill isn’t unanimous consent and a stand-alone issue, is beyond my comprehension. And I’ve yet to hear a reasonable explanation as to why,” said Stewart, who also blasted lawmakers for failing to attend the hearing. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me a nearly empty Congress.”

Choking back tears, he demanded that the leaders of our nation step up and fully fund a program to support sick and dying 9/11 first responders.

 

“They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!” he shouted.

He reminded the politicians that it’s not a New York issue, it’s a national one.

“I’m awfully tired of hearing that it’s a 9/11 New York issue. Al-Qaeda didn’t shout death to Tribeca. They attacked America and these men and women … brought our country back,” he said.

 

The new bill, which the House will vote on this Friday,  permanently authorizes funding for the program.

Four years ago, Stewart sat in the same seat making the same case.

 

The former TV show host was also joined by the widow of a construction worker who responded at Ground Zero, clutching a photo of her late husband to her chest as she spoke.

 

The former talk show host’s testimony was the most viscious as he accused lawmakers of negligence and of treating first responders lobbying for more relief money “like children trick-or-treating, rather than the heroes they are and they will always be.”

“I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I’m angry, and you should be, too, and they’re all angry as well and they have every justification to be that way,” he said.

(Pixabay)

 

He then pointed to the room behind him of aging first responders who had made another trip to Washington to fight for health care funding.  It was backwards, he said.

“This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on this stage, Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and take so damn long.”

The room exploded in applause when he finished his remarks.

“I cried through all of it, most of us did,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., told Stewart.

After his comments, the Louisiana Republican predicted the bill would sail through the committee and pass nearly-unanimously through the House.

 

Before Stewart spoke, Congress heard Luis Alvarez, a retired New York City detective, who recently passed away after going through his 69th round of chemotherapy due to complications from being at Ground Zero.

“We are not here for anything for ourselves,” said Alvarez. “I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero. We showed the world we would never back down and that we can all work together.”

Alvarez said he wasn’t there for himself, he was there so the victims who come after him are taken care of.

“My life isn’t worth more than the next responder to get cancer. This fund is not a ticket to paradise, it’s there to provide to our families when we aren’t there,” he said.

Tragically, Luis Alvarez passed away just weeks after offering his heartbreaking testimony.

Alvarez was a former New York City detective and major advocate for the benefits of 9/11 victims.

The 53-year-old hero worked at ground zero during 9/11 and in the weeks and months following. He never stopped fighting for what was right… and after a long battle with cancer, Alvarez passed away in hospice care.

 

Alvarez’s final wish? Getting his brothers and sisters the treatment that they deserve.

“The government has to act like first responders, you know, put politics aside and let’s get this bill done, because we did our job and the government has to do theirs,” he said. “I would love to be around when it happens.”

 

Former department members said Alvarez perfectly exemplified the NYPD motto, “Fidelis Ad Mortem” or “Faithful Unto Death.”

Hopefully it won’t take the deaths of more heroes for these politicians to finally get this right.

FOR MORE STORIES LIKE THIS, DOWNLOAD THE LAW ENFORCEMENT TODAY APP