Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart joined first responders Thursday morning in the U.S. Capitol demanding the United States Senate approve a bill that has provisions to help recovery workers from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
A prior provision to provide medical aid to first responders, known as the Zadroga Act, expired on Oct. 1, with the program running out of money by next summer.
Congressional Democrats hoped that the provision would be attached as a rider to a year-end transportation spending bill. But Don Stewart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesperson, said that no final proposal was ever advanced and negotiations are ongoing.
With Republicans sparring over the details of the bill, Jon Stewart joined first responders looking for answers as to why Congress has not approved the act.
While host of the “Daily Show,” Stewart often criticized politicians for their apathy on addressing responders that dug through the rubble of the World Trade Centers in the days and weeks following the attack.
Among the Senate offices Stewart visited was Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, as he met with Portman’s Chief of Staff Mark Isakowitz. Several news outlets, including the Huffington Post, recorded the exchange.
“We’re just curious as to why he wouldn’t want to fund the healthcare if there is an answer,” Stewart said to Isakowitz.
“This is coming to a head right now,” Isakowitz responded to Stewart, as the comedian stood next to a first responder from New York City. “I will go back to my desk and call Senator McConnell’s Chief of Staff and tell them that you guys are here.”
“They are looking to show that they can govern at some small measure, this is as salable and basic as a bill as you can have,” Stewart said. “This isn’t my constituency, these guys hate me. They should love you guys, but they’re starting to hate you.”
According to the Associated Press, Chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are close to a final agreement on the compensation portion of the law, which provide payments to those who were physically harmed after the attacks.
Paul Iannizzotto, a former New York City firefighter who was in the north tower of the World Trade Center when the south tower fell, told the AP that he was forced to retire in his 40s because of his many illnesses related to cleaning up the site.
"Our union benefits, our health benefits don't cover all of these meds," Iannizzotto said. "Some of us are looking at alternative meds."
Stewart is set to join HBO after a 16-year run hosting Comedy Central's top program.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.