A day after activist and comedian Jon Stewart gave an emotional plea to Congress to extend funding to 9/11 victims, a House panel on Wednesday voted to advance the measure. The comedian and former host of "The Daily Show" has been a longtime advocate for the 9/11 responders and has repeatedly called out proposed cuts to the fund, which is set to expire in 2020.
Jon Stewart's legendary speech urging Congress to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund left many in tears yesterday.
"I'm pretty sure what's going to happen five years from now, more of these men and women are going to get sick and they are going to die and I am awfully exhausted of hearing that it's a 9/11New York issue", Mr Stewart said.
"Shameful, it's an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution".
The bill will now head to the House floor, where it is expected to pass, although there are concerns about whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will take it up if it makes it through the House.
Pointing to rows of uniformed firefighters and police officers behind him, he said the hearing "should be flipped", so that first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress "down here" in witness chairs answering their questions.
In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared nearly immediately, others with illnesses that developed as they aged, including cancer.
The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing across Lower Manhattan.
More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending. "Behind me a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a almost empty Congress".
In February, the fund's administrator, Rupa Bhattacharyya, issued a statement warning that the VF was running out of money given the increasing number of incoming claims in comparison to the remaining budget.
Nadler said the five-year authorization was insufficient, arguing, "We know all too well that people who are sick now will only get sicker and many will die".
Several members of the NY congressional delegation, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats, and GOP Rep. Peter King, have introduced the Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019 to reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund.