Jon Stewart'sbefore Congress last week started a national dialogue about inaction on a 9/11 survivors' fund. But one person apparently wasn't swayed: The man who could bring the issue to the U.S. Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Monday he doesn't understand why Stewart is "all bent out of shape" about funding for 9/11 the health care needs of first responders and survivors. He accused the former "Daily Show" host of "looking for some way to take offense" on the issue, which Stewart has spent years fighting for.
"We have never failed to address this issue, and we will address it again," McConnell said on "Fox & Friends." "I don't know why he's all bent out of shape."
McConnell also brushed off Stewart's anger at the fact that many members of the House Judiciary Committee didn't show up to the hearing about the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, whilemade it there to testify.
"That frequently happens because members have a lot of things going on at the same time," McConnell said. "It sounds to me like he's looking for some way to take offense."
Stewart blasted the House panel in his testimony, accusing members of apathy and hypocrisy when it comes to helping 9/11 responders left with cancer and other health issues in the wake of the World Trade Center attack.
"I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is — a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress," Stewart said. "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak — to no one." [Watch his full statement below.]
A day after his testimony, theto permanently reauthorize the fund, which is part of the larger James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
Now the fund will go to a full House vote, and then it will be up for Senate approval. But McConnell has not confirmed that he'll bring to the Senate floor for a vote, only saying the Senate "will look at it." The day the House panel passed it, McConnell said about the fund, "Gosh, I hadn't looked at that lately."
The Zadroga Act and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund havefor more than a decade, mostly from Republican lawmakers who have balked at its cost and said the issue should be handled by states. And this isn't the first time Stewart and McConnell have feuded over it.
Stewart has been campaigning for the funds for years, and in 2010 devoted an entire episode of "The Daily Show" to it. In 2015, Stewart accused McConnell of blocking the bill and putting off its reauthorization until the last minute. He called McConnell "an enormous obstacle, unwilling to move the bill forward for purely political reasons."
Congress ended up reauthorizing the Zadroga Act for 75 years, but the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is at risk of losing funding in 2020.