Jon Stewart hails Senate's passage of 9/11 bill

Jon Stewart hails Senate's passage of 9/11 bill
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Jon Stewart on Tuesday hailed the passage of a bill to extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for decades.

“We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them,” Stewart said at a news conference. “And today is that day that they can exhale.”

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“Unfortunately the pain and suffering of what these heroes continue to go through if going to continue,” he added. “I’m hopeful that today begins the process of being able to heal without the burden of having to advocate.”

Stewart’s comments came shortly after the Senate approved the extension of the fund in a 97-2 vote, sending the bill to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE’s desk. The bill would extend the fund until 2090, effectively permanently compensating individuals who were injured in the attack or developed illnesses from rescuing people in the hazardous conditions.

The House approved the bill in a 402-12 vote earlier this month.

After the Senate’s vote Tuesday, applause broke out in the chamber, where Stewart and other champions of the bill were watching. Stewart was also spotted embracing a crying John Feal, the 9/11 first responder who led the organization pushing for the bill.

Stewart, the former "Daily Show" host, has championed the fund for years, using his star power to bring attention to the cause.

In June, Stewart’s testimony before a House panel on extending the fund went viral, invigorating the effort to push the bill across the finish line.

“I think we can all agree I am the real hero,” Stewart joked Tuesday.

“Today it’s about the heart of James Zadroga and Joe [Zadroga] and the integrity of Ray Pfeifer and the courage of Lou Alvarez and the tenacity of John Feal,” Stewart added. “They lifted this 9/11 community on their shoulders and they carried them home.”

James Zadroga, Pfeifer and Alvarez died of illnesses they developed responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Speaking to reporters later, Stewart said the 9/11 first responders “did all the manual labor,” adding that his job was to “come in at the very end and yell as loud as I could.”

Last week, Stewart also sparred with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate scraps plan to force second stopgap vote ahead of shutdown On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal Democratic debate at Tyler Perry's could miss the mark with black voters MORE (R-Ky.) after the senator blocked the bill from being approved by unanimous consent. Paul argued the bill’s spending needed to be offset elsewhere.

Stewart said Paul’s objection was "absolutely outrageous." Paul shot back that Stewart was part of a "left-wing mob."

On Tuesday, Stewart said that “it’s not about Rand Paul, and it’s not about [Sen.] Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Senators introduce bipartisan bill restricting police use of facial recognition tech MORE [R-Utah].” Lee also voted against the bill.

“The things that they were saying are the things that John and the community have had to deal with this entire time,” Stewart said alongside Feal. “It was very disingenuous. This was either a need or it wasn’t.”

He added that he was frustrated because it was politics holding up the bill, not a failure of the program itself.

“This program was administered incredibly well,” he said. “There’s no fraud, there’s no waste, there’s no abuse. It was taking care of an urgent need. It was giving benefit and comfort to families that were suffering greatly. It was helping heroes who had helped us. It was all the things a program is supposed to be.”