Jon Stewart warns first responders of proximity to ‘toxic levels of bulls—‘ in DC

Jon Stewart visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday for the first time since leaving “The Daily Show” to urge Congress to renew federal health benefits for first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The comedian was all serious, repeatedly saying he was embarrassed to have to come ask lawmakers to provide benefits he argued should be an easy, moral decision.

{mosads}“I’m here today basically to apologize,” Stewart said during a press conference on the lawn outside the Capitol. “I want to apologize to all the men and women, the first responders, that you had to come down here today. I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for all the country. I’m embarrassed for New York.

“I’m embarrassed that you, after serving so selflessly with such heroism, have to come down here and convince people to do what’s right for the illnesses and difficulties that you suffered because of your heroism and because of your selflessness.”

He also offered them a warning.

“Today on the Hill, you will be exposed to possibly toxic levels of bullshit and arrogance. You’re strong men and women. But these are conditions you may never have faced before. Buckle your seat belts, and let’s get this done,” Stewart said.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 provides medical coverage and financial assistance to those who are now suffering illnesses related to rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero.

As of Sept. 6, the September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund set up by the bill has paid out $1.4 billion, according to statistics released last week.

The bill is set to expire in October, though pay outs would continue into 2016.

Stewart was instrumental in the legislation’s passage. In his push for the bill in 2010, Stewart had four first responders as guests on the Comedy Central television show.

Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would extend the benefits into 2049.

The bill needs to be renewed now, Stewart said, to provide assurances that those in need will continue to get coverage.

“If you have stage-four cancer and you get a letter of notification saying the medicine that you rely on may be ending in a year, that to me is an urgent care situation,” he said. “Why is it incumbent on our first responders to have to consistently push to get the benefits that are coming to them purely for their acts of valor in a wartime situation.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who sponsored the Senate version of the renewal bill, said the five-year trial period has allowed studies of exactly the types of illness caused by Ground Zero, so abuses of the benefits are unlikely.

“We know exactly who’s sick, why they’re sick and we’ve developed specialized treatment for them,” she said. “This program works. It is improving and saving lives, and we must ensure it is permanent.”

Along with Gillibrand, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) joined Stewart. 

Tags Kirsten Gillibrand

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