Remember how 5 years ago, Comedy Central Daily Show Host Jon Stewart made a big splash in Washington D.C. politics, using substantial airtime to cover how ridiculous it is to vote against a bill which provides 9/11 first responders minimum health benefits and compensation?
Jon Stewart shames GOP and conservative media on how they treat 9/11 first responders
In 2010, H.R. 947 – The James Zagodra 9/11 Health and Compensation Act 2010 – was eventually passed, only after Jon stewart’s effort in influencing American voters and the media to give Republican senators enough pressure to act. This Act ensures that first responders (a.k.a the Heroes of 9/11) who are suffering from terminal diseases such as cancer or respiratory failure because they inhaled toxic fumes when going into the crash site on September 11th 2001, will be provided with healthcare.
As many supports would put it, this is a piece of legislation based on common sense for 9/11 first responders
Yet, the Act has an expiry date, which is this September. Unfortunately there is no sign of a Republican controlled congress showing any degree of care towards extending this Act. Let’s remember, in 2010 the Democrats had a majority in the Senate, but the Republicans motioned and vote to block the passing of the bill. They also tried to filibuster to bill so that 9/11 responders benefits will never get to see the light of day.
As the New York Magazine puts it when describing the 9/11 responders Act,
The section of the law that helps pay for the ongoing treatment of first responders and survivors dealing with chronic diseases or respiratory disorders will expire at the end of the month. A year later, a nearly $3 billion fund – one that helps compensate those who have suffered economic losses because of injuries that happened at Ground Zero or maladies that came later – will also expire. If the law isn’t reauthorised soon, the many people depending on it will probably receive letters from the government in the coming months telling them the program has ended, leaving them impossibly worried about how they will pay for impending or ongoing medical expenses.
Currently, the Republicans control both the senate and the house, and it seems that the chances of extending this Act is getting slimmer each day. As it stands, as long as Congress decides to not put the bill for a debate and a vote, even when the extension of Act is gathering huge support in Congress, the Act will expire. So it is now up to the GOP leadership to set the legislative agenda and bring the discussion forward. However, it doesn’t seem likely.
Why? Partially because perhaps they are only focused on winning the upcoming election, partially because perhaps they were never interested in passing that legislation in the first place, but pressure from the media, those who watched Stewart’s show (around 3 million per show) and social media was too high in 2010.
Seeing this is an issue very close to his heart, even though he has already left the Daily Show hoping to spend more time with his family, Jon Stewart had to appear to the public again, raising this issue and trying to get enough support for a permanent extension of this Act.
At the rally hoping to raise awareness, Jon Stewart started his speech with an apology, saying that he is embarrassed that people suffering from serious illnesses still need to go out, march, rally and it looks like they need to ‘beg’ for benefits from those in power. “I’m embarrassed for our country. I’m embarrassed for New York”, said Jon Stewart.
For your reference, here are the names of the Senators who voted against the 9/11 First Responders Act in 2010:
These are the Senators who co-sponsored the reauthorisation of the Act this year:
|Sen. Nelson, Bill [D-FL]|
|Sen. Heinrich, Martin [D-NM]|
|Sen. Leahy, Patrick J. [D-VT]|
|Sen. Kaine, Tim [D-VA]|
|Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]|
|Sen. Vitter, David [R-LA]|