Congress created the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund years ago as a way to help cover the health care costs for those injured or sickened in the attacks. What lawmakers may not have fully appreciated is just how many people would need medical assistance -- especially first responders who suffered ill effects as part of their service. As a result, the fund has struggled to keep pace with claims.
It's now time for lawmakers to reauthorize the entire program, and as a high-profile speaker told a congressional subcommittee this morning, there's no reason this should be difficult.
Comedian Jon Stewart is scolding Congress 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 Tuesday's hearing on a bill that would ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years."Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It's the one thing they're running out of," the former "Daily Show" host said.
Struggling with his emotions, the comedian concluded, "They responded in five seconds -- they did their jobs. With courage, grace, tenacity, humility.... Eighteen years later, do yours."
A standing ovation soon followed.
There is little doubt that a bill to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund will eventually pass. What's so difficult to understand, however, is why this isn't effortless.
Indeed, what I find personally baffling is the fact that this has been needlessly challenging for years.
Longtime readers may recall I covered the debate over the original Zadroga bill back in 2010, and while it eventually passed, it struggled to overcome opposition from congressional Republicans -- many of whom were only too pleased to use 9/11 for political reasons when it suited their purposes.
If there's a compelling explanation for why this isn't one of the easiest votes in any Congress, I can't think of it.