Jon Stewart, 9/11 responders call on Congress to fund victim compensation program

Jon Stewart, 9/11 responders call on Congress to fund victim compensation program

Comedian Jon Stewart and 9/11 responders and survivors on Monday called on Congress to support bipartisan legislation ensuring the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) remains fully funded.

Proponents of the "Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act" argue the legislation is necessary to help those who continue to suffer from illnesses and injuries as a direct result from the 2001 terrorist attack.

The legislation is spearheaded by Sens. Kristin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTrump donor hosting Romney fundraiser Bennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists GOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' MORE (R-Colo.), as well as Reps. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyHouse passes bill taking aim at anonymous shell companies An unintended burden on small businesses House Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.).

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The push comes shortly after the VCF announced it was facing a funding shortfall that could potentially lead to 50 to 70 percent cuts on the awards it can provide.

Maloney noted the bill they previously passed only provided five years of compensation funding for survivors, adding she believes that needs to be made permanent.

“We have 85 co-sponsors in the House, we expect to have 150 by the end of the week,” she told reporters during a press conference.

Gardner echoed Maloney’s sentiments, adding he believes the bill will see strong support from both parties.

“We shouldn’t turn these courageous individuals into people who have to shake the couch for change,” he said. “This is about funding the Victim's Compensation Fund not for a moment, but a lifetime.”

Stewart also took a jab at critics who argue it isn’t fiscally responsible.

“As I stood in the marble rotunda that’s laced with gold, I thought to myself we have to be careful not to waste money on first responders with cancer,” he said sarcastically, adding the program has proven itself to be effective and has “relieved stresses” for grieving families.

“This is nonsense - you guys know it, I know it — this is theater.  There’s no reason to have dragged these people down here, there’s no reason to have these conversations,” he said.  “It’s bull***t — you know it and I know it. So let’s stop the nonsense.”

John Feal, a 9/11 demolition supervisor, vowed to “challenge every member” to get on board with the cause, arguing they are “either for us or they are against us.”

“I’m in the mood for a fight and we’re going to get a bill done this year,” he told reporters.

“And the New York delegation, while you guys all think I’m loyal to you — I love you all dearly — I ’m loyal to the 9/11 community. I am loyal to my friends that continue to die. I'm loyal to the people to those affected by 9/11. I’ve just been honored and humbled to work with you.”