House panel unanimously passes 9/11 victims fund bill after Jon Stewart bashing

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passes a bill that permanently authorizes the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Comedian Jon Stewart scolded Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure that a victims’ compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks never runs out of money.

Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.

The sparse attendance on Tuesday by lawmakers was “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution,” Stewart said, adding that the “disrespect” shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses “is utterly unacceptable.”

First and foremost, Stewart said, families want to know, “Why this is so damn hard and takes so damn long?”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and must be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before it can get a vote in the House of Representatives, but is expected to pass mainly due to the fact that the legislation has 313 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing over Lower Manhattan. Fires burned for weeks. Thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection.

In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared almost immediately, others with illnesses that developed as they aged, including cancer.

More than 40,000 people have applied to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.

The White House has yet to respond to requests for comment on whether President Trump supports the legislation, according to the New York Post.

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