Politics

Jon Stewart responds to Mitch McConnell over 9/11 victim fund

'Meet with them,' comedian urges

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Jon Stewart had plenty to say to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night.

Stewart, the former host of "The Daily Show," popped up on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" to respond to a statement McConnell made to Fox News.

McConnell told Fox News that he didn't know why Stewart was "all bent out of shape" when it comes to the reauthorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, and said it would be fully funded.

The current law was renewed in 2015 and is set to expire in 2020, but the fund's administrator announced in February that there was insufficient funding to pay all claims. At the time of its last renewal, Congress appropriated $4.6 billion for the fund, bringing the total appropriated amount of the fund over the years to $7.4 billion. The new bill, which advanced out of committee, does not call for a specific amount of money but whatever sums necessary through 2090.

"I'm bent out of shape for them," Stewart said Monday. "These are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great trillions of dollars war on terror."

Stewart said these first responders are still suffering and dying, and that "you would think that that would be enough to get Congress' attention but apparently it's not."

Stewart strongly criticized Congress while giving testimony to a half-empty US House Judiciary Committee last week. The panel unanimously supported the bill later last week.

In a clip that "The Late Show" broadcast during Stewart's segment, McConnell told Fox News that congressional member absence during committee hearings "frequently happens because members have a lot of things going on at the same time."

"Now I feel stupid," Stewart said sarcastically. "This is a huge misunderstanding. I didn't know that they were busy ... I didn't mean to interrupt them with their jobs!"

Speaking directly to McConnell, Stewart said that the senator loves members of the 9/11 community when "they serve your political purposes, but when they're in urgent need you slow walk, you dither, you use it as a political pawn to get other things you want and you don't get the job done completely."

"If you want to know why the 9/11 community is 'bent out of shape' over these past, let's call it 18 years, meet with them, tomorrow, as soon as possible, and don't make them beg for it," Stewart said. "You could pass this thing as a standalone bill tomorrow. Meet with them, I beg of you."

Stewart took one last parting shot at the Senate Majority Leader.

"If you're busy, I get it," he said. "Just understand the next time we have a war, or you're being robbed, or your house is on fire, and you make that desperate call for help, don't get bent out of shape if they show up at the last minute with fewer people than you thought were going to pay attention and don't actually put it out."

When asked for comment early Tuesday, David Popp — a spokesman for McConnell — referred back to statements the senator made on Fox News indicating that Congress would "take care of the 9/11 victims compensation fund."

"There is no way we won't address this problem appropriately," McConnell said on Fox. "We have in the past. We will in the future."

- Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


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