White House praises Jon Stewart for plugging bill to help 9/11 responders

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs praised television host Jon Stewart on Tuesday for talking about legislation stalled in the Senate that would provide health benefits for 9/11 first responders. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"I think he has put the awareness around this legislation, and that's good," Gibbs said of the "Daily Show" host. During his press briefing, Gibbs said he hoped Stewart could convince two GOP senators to vote to break a filibuster of the bill.

The House passed the legislation earlier this year but Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), have said they will delay it further. They argue the bill has not been properly vetted by congressional committees. The bill fell two votes short of the 60 needed for cloture when it came up earlier this month. 

During his final show of the year, Stewart ripped Republican senators for holding up the $7.4 billion legislation.

"This is an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11," Stewart said on his show. "The party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase are now moving suspiciously into a convenient pre-9/11 mentality when it comes to this bill." 

The 9/11 bill would provide healthcare compensation for first responders and rescue workers who became ill from toxins at the Ground Zero site in lower Manhattan. Coburn said Tuesday the bill should be taken up in the next Congress. 

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was in office during the terrorist attack, has been lobbying Republican senators to support the measure, but he acknowledged Tuesday that some Republicans aren't returning his calls.

The bill represents one of the final priorities for the Obama administration in the lame-duck Congress. Democratic leaders have pressed for another vote before lawmakers leave Washington, D.C., until next year. 

President Obama actually appeared on Stewart's show in October days before the midterm elections, where he faced some tough questions mixed with praise from the comedian-turned-TV host before an enthusiastic live audience.