Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Jon Stewart took to the Capitol on Wednesday,, coming together to lobby Congress to renew health funding for 9/11 first responders.
“If Congress can’t come together and help the first responders who are ill because they rushed to the towers, then we may as well forget this place altogether,” Schumer said at the Capitol on Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post.
Joining Schumer in the fight at the Capitol for lawmakers to renew the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which expires on Oct. 3, was comedian and former "Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, along with 9/11 first responders and survivors.
Under the new bill, aid for first responders would become permanent, without the chance of any lapse in care.
There are some 33,000 injured and ill responders who have at least one 9/11-linked condition, with 3,700 having a 9/11-linked cancer, the Huffington Post reports. Nearly every one of them sought treatments through the program last year.
Stewart offered his apologies to first responders and said he was “embarrassed” that public lobbying for the renewal has had to take place instead of Congress simply doing “what’s right.”
"I'm here today basically to apologize," Stewart said at a rally in front of the Capitol Building. "I want to apologize to all of the men and women, the first responders, that you had to come down here today. I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for our 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."
While at a press conference with lawmakers, Stewart issued a warning to those who have declined to meet with the first responders, CBS News reports.
"I'm not on television anymore but I sure as hell know a lot of people who are and at a certain point there are a lot of congressional doors that are closed because those individuals do not want to be shamed publicly," Stewart said. "Well guess what: If you don't sign onto this type of thing, it has to be known. And your reasons for it have to be spoken out loud, and out in public, these men and women deserve nothing less."
The committees who preside over the program in both the House and Senate are reportedly working on the details of the legislation.
“We do plan to extend the program,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said.
McConnell’s statement was taken as very good news by Schumer.
“This is really a very bright glimmer of hope on something so important to thousands who are dying of cancers and other diseases,” Schumer said.
Photo Source: Rebecca Wilson/Flickr, WikiCommons