- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jon Stewart made an appearance Monday night on “The Daily Show” for the first time since Trevor Noah took over the comedy news show in August to blast Congress for their inaction on reauthorizing health care for 9/11 first responders.

Mr. Stewart, who has been lobbying for these first responders for years, returned to the show to “plead with the government to do the right thing” in renewing a bill giving health care for emergency responders who worked on Ground Zero after the tragic terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and developed illnesses related to the toxic dust plume.

The Zadroga Act was first introduced in 2006, but was tabled when Congress said the $7.4 billion price tag was too expensive. Mr. Stewart took the national legislature to task on his show in 2010, and within six days of the segment airing, the legislation was passed, albeit with a lower budget.

There was “no reason to not renew it permanently, but they did not renew it anyway,” Mr. Stewart told Mr. Noah while sitting at his old desk. “It’s soon going to be out of money. These first responders, many sick with cancers and pulmonary disease, have had to travel at their own expense to Washington, D.C. hundreds of times to plead for our government to do the right thing.”

Congress approved the Zadroga Act for five years, so it expired in part in September and will fully expire by the end of October 2016. Mr. Stewart has been an active voice in calling for the program to be permanent for all 9/11 first responders.

“The only conclusion I can draw is that the people of Congress are not as good a people as the people who are first responders,” Mr. Stewart said.

The Comedy Central show then aired a pre-taped segment of Mr. Stewart, acting as a correspondent, visiting members of Congress who voted against the bill reauthorization with 9/11 first responders “to see if shame works.” Mr. Stewart said that most of the politicians hid from him “like meerkats and prairie dogs” but vowed to stay there all day.

He said the trip paid off when Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, signed the bill the very night he was approached by the comedian and the first responders. “So maybe shame does work,” Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Stewart also had strong words for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, for being “an enormous obstacle, unwilling to move the bill forward for purely political reasons.” He also called out House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.

The Zadroga Act was not attached to the highway bill which passed last week because Mr. McConnell said it was “incomplete.” House and Senate leadership have expressed interest in attaching it to the omnibus spending bill, which needs to be passed by Dec. 11 to avert a government shutdown.

Mr. Noah then brought up the panel Mr. Stewart hosted on the show in 2010 when he was initially lobbying for the Zadroga Act, and suggested that they bring the panel back. Only one man, retired firefighter Kenny Specht, participated — when asked where the other members of the panel were, Mr. Specht replied that two of them were very ill and the third panelist had died.

Mr. Stewart signed off the show by calling on the audience to promote the Zadroga Act and its reauthorization by hashtagging #WorstResponders on social media.


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