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Jon Stewart slams Rand Paul for blocking 9/11 funding bill as another first responder dies

Families fight for 9/11 victims' fund

Comedian and 9/11 first responder advocate Jon Stewart blasted Rand Paul after the senator effectively blocked a vote to permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. The fund provides financial assistance for first responders suffering from 9/11-related medical issues. 

Paul prevented the Senate from voting to approve the bill through unanimous consent, citing its cost. 

"It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country," Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said on the Senate floor. "And therefore any new spending ... should be offset by cutting spending that's less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate."

"Pardon me if I'm not impressed in any way by Rand Paul's fiscal responsibility virtue signaling," Stewart retorted. 

Stewart, speaking to Fox News' "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Wednesday, called the move "absolutely outrageous."He  added, "Rand Paul presented tissue paper avoidance of the 1.5 trillion tax cut that added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit and now he stands up at the last minute after 15 years of blood, sweat and tears from the 9/11 community so that it's all over now, now we're going to balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community."

Fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also placed a procedural hold on the legislation, further preventing it from passing in the Senate. 

Mike Barasch, managing partner of Barasch McGarry, a law firm that represents roughly 15,000 first responders and survivors of the 2001 attacks including many who testified before Congress, told CBS that he met with Paul and Lee's staff before the vote and were "assured" that while the two Republicans wouldn't vote for the bill, they also wouldn't block the bill from passage. 

"This is so hypocritical for them to be now saying we are worried about the deficit when both voted in favor for the tax cut," said Barasch. "This is a moral obligation, Congress must pass this bill."

The newest roadblock came just hours before yet another first responder, Kevin Nolan, died from cancer that was diagnosed in the wake of the attacks on September 11th, CBS New York reported. A retired firefighter, Nolan was a member of Engine Company 79 and was among the thousands working at Ground Zero immediately after the terror attacks. 

Barasch said that two of his own 9/11 first responder clients also died Wednesday night from similar cancers related to the terror attacks. In total, 200 firefighters have died as a result of illnesses sustained in the wake of the attacks. 

"It is almost incomprehensible  that after losing 343 members on September 11, we have now had 200 more FDNY members die due to World Trade Center illness. These heroes gave their lives bravely fighting to rescue and recover others. We will never forget them," FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement to CBS News. 

The recent deaths come more than a month after Stewart's gripping testimony before Congress, in which he shouted at lawmakers and called them "shameful" for their lack of interest in funding the bill. 

Luis Alvarez funeral
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart (C) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, (C-L) salute the casket of retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez as it is brought into Immaculate Conception Church on July 3, 2019, in the Queens borough of New York City. Getty

The bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House last week, was re-named after first responders who had passed away from health complications related to the 2001 attacks, including Luis Alvarez, who died of cancer earlier this month. 

Alvarez, a former NYPD detective and 9/11 responder, testified before the House panel alongside Stewart shortly before his death. 

"This fund isn't a ticket to paradise, it's to provide our families with care," Alvarez said. "You all said you would never forget. Well, I'm here to make sure that you don't."

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has since implored Senate Majority Leader McConnell to hold a stand-alone vote on the fund tomorrow sometime Thursday without attaching it to any other legislation. Barasch told CBS that he was confident McConnell would try to hold a vote on Monday for a standalone measure. 

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