House Panel Passes 9/11 Victims Fund Bill A Day After Jon Stewart's Emotional Testimony

A bill that'll permanently ensure funding for the victims of 9/11 has been passed, on Wednesday, by the House Judiciary Committee, one day after the comedian, Jon Steward, lambasted lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing of the bill.

The House Committee voted to advance the 'Never Forget The Heroes Act,' which allows additional funds to the rapidly dwindling 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund beyond 2020.

The bill will now head to the House floor, where it's expected to pass. However, there're concerns about whether the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-ky., will take it up if it makes it through the House.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that he's "imploring, pleading, even begging" to bring the bill to the floor once it passes the House.

Steward, the former Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" host, gave emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Tuesday for failing to attend a hearing of the bill.

The comedian even broke down in tears, describing the lawmakers as "shameful."

At the outset of his remarks, Steward said:

"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. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one ... shameful."

In 2010, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and it was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years.

But a segment of the law, the Victim Compensation Fund, was only funded for five years, which was to end in 2020.

The Victim Compensation Fund is aimed to provide financial support to the victims of serious medical issues, including the epidemic of cancer diagnosis, after the collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001.

But in 2019, the 'Never Forget the Heroes Act' was introduced by members of the New York congressional delegation, including the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats and GOP Rep. Peter King.

The act was introduced to reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund, and it was supported by two New York senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Jerry Nadler, in his opening statement on Wednesday, said:

"That five-year reauthorization was not nearly enough. People are still getting sick as diseases like cancer emerge after long latency periods. Those already sick are getting sicker, and tragically, many are dying and have died."

On Tuesday, only a few lawmakers attended a hearing of the bill. There are 14 members of the subcommittee.

Comedian Steward described the lawmakers' attendance as "an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution."

Being one of the most vocal advocates for 9/11 responders since 2010, Steward was disgusted by the small number of lawmakers assembled at the Tuesday hearing.

He expressed his feelings:

"You should be ashamed of yourselves for not being here. Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber."

Steward also said that legislation like the 'Never Forget The Heroes Act' shouldn't be punted like a "political football." He even lambasted Congress members who considered the bill a "New York" issue.

He admonished:

"Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension."

"More of these men and women are going to get sick, and they're going to die, and I'm awfully tired of hearing this is a 'New York issue.' Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America."