While Stewart called McConnell out, he spent most of a Fox News interview explaining his frustrations with Congress' seeming apathy toward renewing a fund for 9/11 first responders

By Sam Gillette
June 17, 2019 06:26 PM
Jon Stewart
Zach Gibson/Getty

Days after his plea to Congress went viral, Jon Stewart continued to petition for a bill that would give lasting health care support to 9/11 responders and victims — and he criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for what he said was a lack of care about the issue.

“In terms of getting the 9/11 bills passed, Mitch McConnell has been the white whale of this since 2010,” the former Daily Show host, 56, said on Fox News Sunday, comparing the powerful Republican lawmaker to the titular uncatchable whale in Moby Dick.

“This has never been dealt with compassionately by Sen. McConnell,” Stewart said, continuing: “He has always held out [on moving forward with legislation] until the last minute, and only then after intense lobbying and public shaming has he even deigned to move on it.”

The next day, McConnell, 77, said on Fox & Friends that “many things in Congress have [come] at the last minute. We have never failed to address this issue, and we will address it again.”

“I don’t know why he [Stewart] is all bent out of shape, but we will take care of the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund,” McConnell said.

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“There is no way we won’t address this problem appropriately,” he said, though he noted he was not familiar with the latest version of the funding bill. (His office referred PEOPLE to that interview when asked for comment.)

Stewart has previously expressed disapproval over McConnell’s handling of legislation for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

“So far, he has been an enormous obstacle, unwilling to move the bill forward for purely political reasons,” Stewart said on The Daily Show in 2015, describing the senator as “not nice.”

McConnell said then that “everybody was for” the funding and “this is a worthwhile cause and we’ll take care of it.”

A 2010 push for money was temporarily held up by Republicans in the Senate who took issue with the cost, according to CNN and The New York Times.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (center)

“Not all Republicans oppose this, but everyone who has opposed it is a Republican, and it’s unacceptable,” Stewart said this week on Fox.

While Stewart called McConnell out, he spent most of his Fox News Sunday interview explaining his frustrations with Congress’ seeming apathy toward renewing the compensation fund — and the desperate need for it.

He was expounding on the same views he expressed last week when, along with several first responders, he appeared before a portion of the House Judiciary Committee.

Stewart’s fiery and tearful speech — in which he accused Congress of “ignoring” first responders whose health has been affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — drew national notice.

The next day, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would reauthorize the compensation fund until 2090, according to NPR. With some 310 co-sponsors, it is set for bipartisan passage in the House.

While the fund was re-authorized in 2015, for five more years, in February government officials warned it was too quickly running out of money and would have to reduce aid to those in need.

Jon Stewart (right) is joined by 9/11 first responders at a Congressional hearing last week in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson/Getty

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“I think this community is at the end of their rope,” Stewart said on Fox News Sunday, noting that seven more 9/11 first responders died last week.

“I think there’s a feeling of disbelief, that they can’t understand why they have to continually saddle up and ride down to Washington and make these appeals for something that should be simple but is somehow, through politics, made agonizingly difficult,” he continued.

In recent years, more and more 9/11 first responders have been diagnosed with illnesses that have been linked to their participation in rescue and recovery efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stewart said on Sunday: “We cannot make these individuals continue to live in the agonizing uncertainty of not knowing if these programs will be extended, and that they will be able to move on with their lives.”

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