The Senate today passed the September 11th Victims Compensation fund by a vote of 97-2, authorizing through 2092 the money needed to ensure the health care of the first responders and workers whose exposure to the toxicity at Lower Manhattan’s Ground Zero has resulted, and will continue to result in, cancer and other ailments.
Jon Stewart, the former Daily Show host who has largely devoted his post-late night endeavors to advocating for the responders and fighting for the fund, reportedly attended the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch today at the invitation of New York’s senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
In a photo making the rounds on social media today, taken by Roll Call photojournalist Bill Clark, a pleased-looking Stewart smiles as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell passes by in the Capitol hallway prior to the vote. See the photo above, and Clark’s tweet below.
Under the bill approved today, the 9/11 fund will be extended for 70 years – considered the potential lifetimes of the responders – with the first 10 years estimated to cost $10.2 billion.
The House approved the re-authorization earlier this month by an overwhelming margin. With today’s Senate vote, the measure proceeds to President Donald Trump, who is expected to approve.
Stewart made headlines in June when he delivered an angry, passionate appearance before the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing sparsely attended by members of Congress. “You should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here,” Stewart said during the hearing broadcast live by CSPAN, “but you won’t be, because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”
Earlier this month, after Sen. Rand Paul delayed the Senate vote by temporarily blocking a vote over his concerns about the country’s debt. In an interview on Fox News, Stewart lambasted Paul: “You’ll pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling.”
“Rand Paul presented tissue paper avoidance of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit,” Stewart said, “and now he stands up at the last minute after 15 years of blood, sweat and tears from the 9/11 community to say that it’s all over now. Now we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community.”
After yesterday’s vote, Paul said in a statement: “While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded. We have a nearly trillion dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control. As I have done on countless issues, including disaster relief and wall funding, I will always take a stand against borrowing more money to pay for programs rather than setting priorities and cutting waste.”
Senators Paul and Mike Lee voted against the measure today.