Last week, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart gave a furious testimony about Congress's lack of urgency in updating the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. After his appearance before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties went viral, Stewart spoke to Chris Wallace at Fox News and added that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was a particular obstacle to passing the bill, which would extend health-care funding for 9/11 first responders. "In terms of getting the 9/11 bills passed, Mitch McConnell has been the white whale of this since 2010," Stewart said. In other words, he's impossible to find.
Shortly after Stewart's testimony, the House successfully passed the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which extends the compensation fund through 2090. But it faces a rockier path in the Senate, especially with McConnell's history: In 2015 he stonewalled the very same legislation, refusing to pass anything except for a revised five year-long fund. A first responder told NBC News at the time, "It’s absolutely disgusting that we have to keep on coming back down here and to keep on begging." That fund is due to run out of money next year, which is why Stewart and others are pushing so hard to get a bill passed that will cover first responders for in the long-term.
On Monday morning, McConnell responded to Stewart on Fox & Friends, saying, "Many things in Congress arrive at the last minute. We've never failed to address this issue, and we will address it again. I don't know why he's all bent out of shape." He added that of course there were only a few members of Congress who actually attended Stewart's testimony, claiming, "Well that frequently happens because members have a lot of things going on at the same time, and it sounds to me like he's looking for some way to take offense."
Stewart has never been one to let anyone else have the last word, and on Monday night he popped up behind Stephen Colbert's desk on The Late Show. "I feel like an ass," he told Colbert. "Now I feel stupid, this is a huge misunderstanding. I didn't know that they were busy. Oh boy, now I don't even know what to say. I didn't mean to interrupt them with their JOBS."
After some banter with Colbert, and an apparently obligatory turtle joke, Stewart took a more serious turn and addressed McConnell directly:
We've spent a year gathering bipartisan co-sponsors and advocates for this bill, all in the hopes that when it finally gets to the great Mitch McConnell's desk, you won't jack us around like you've done in the past. So, if you want to know why the 9/11 community is bent out of shape, over these past, let's call it 18 years, meet with them. Tomorrow. As soon as possible. And don't make them beg for it. You could pass this thing as a standalone bill tomorrow. Meet with them. I beg of you.
McConnell rarely shows any energy to pass legislation unless it cuts taxes or gives Republicans more power. An estimated 72,000 people have enrolled in the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, including firefighters, police officers, utility workers, and medical examiners. Roughly 8,000 of them have already contract cancer. Still, McConnell keeps making them return to Congress to beg for coverage.
Originally Appeared on GQ