Washington, D.C.—On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, effective through 2092, by a vote of 97-2, according to NBC News. This would legally and indefinitely fund health care for 9/11 victims and first-responders for life.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
Created after the September 11th terror attacks in 2001, the Fund distributed over $7 billion to victims and their families through 2004. In 2011, the Fund was reactivated and reauthorized for another five years, ending in 2015.
The Fund was set to expire in December 2020. No more.
God Bless You, Jon Stewart
This historical passage by the U.S. Senate came after an emotionally charged speech by comedian and former host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart, who addressed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last month, rightfully slamming and shaming lawmakers on using the bill and fund as a “political football” in appropriations debates and failing to fund it indefinitely.
Garnering national headlines, Stewart was absolutely horrified, appalled, and disgusted at the thought that the fund would ever expire, and the fact that the House Judiciary Committee couldn’t even show up in full numbers out of respect for the men and women who gave their lives so that Americans could be safe post-9/11.
Stewart has been a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, and rightfully and angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend last month’s hearing:
“You’re indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity—time! It’s the one thing they’re running out of,” Stewart protested.
“They responded (to the 9/11 attacks) in five seconds. They did their jobs, with courage, grace, tenacity, humility…18 years later, do yours!”
“I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I am angry … and they’re angry as well,” Stewart said, turning around and pointing to each row of first-responders in the hearing’s audience.
Reminding the Judiciary Committee that several members of Congress pledged to “never forget the heroes of 9/11,” are simply dragging their feet, utilizing the fund as their own means of political debate and negotiation.
“I’m awfully tired of hearing it’s 9/11, a New York issue. Al Qaeda didn’t shout death to Tribeca,” he said, referring to a neighborhood in Manhattan. “They attacked America. And these men and women and their response to it is what brought our country back.”
In response to the attendance (or lack thereof) by the Judiciary Committee, Stewart compared the emptiness of the room to the entire process of what the current healthcare system had represented for 9/11 first responders:
“I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to — behind me a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress,” he said. “Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak, to no one.”
“It’s shameful,” he said.
However, the times have now changed. After the Fund’s passing on Tuesday by the Senate, Stewart let release, a huge sigh of relief.
“We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them,” Stewart told reporters on Tuesday. “And today is that day that they can exhale.”
The bill now heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature, who is expected to sign it.