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Jon Stewart Convinces GOP Senator to Approve Health Care for 9/11 Responders

“You guys are going to have blood on your hands when more and more people get sicker and die.”

Last week, in a show of blatant GOP hypocrisy, a bill to approve health care and compensation for 9/11 first responders was one vote shy from approval in the Senate. Failure to pass the bill, known as the Zadroga Act, would end assistance for many first responders when the program runs out of money in February. The bill provides help to thousands of first responders who have become ill as a result of their work in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

With just a few days left to convince one senator to have a change of heart, John Feal from the FealGood Foundation brought former Daily Show host Jon Stewart to walk the halls of Congress and change Republican Senator Rob Portman’s vote. The Ohio politician was reluctant to vote for the bill because it has no “pay-fors,” although in the words of Feal, “When you guys want to find money, and you know, you can find money.”

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Jon Stewart: “I think the difficulty is also they look at Senator McConnell who is holding it up a bit. He sponsored the nuclear energy health care bill that was permanent and has cost $11 billion since 2000. So, I think it’s difficult for these guys [9/11 first responders] to keep coming down here and ask the government to do the right thing when it seems like they’ve done it in other situations... I can’t imagine anything more worthy than these guys.”

Jon Stewart: “I think the frustration was that the ‘pay-for’ was worked out and it was in the transportation bill but it got yanked based on a bait and switch with an oil bill. So these guys are, I think, everybody’s at the end of their ropes and justifiably so… It’s sort of shameful for them to be let down by their own government when they went down there without any question whatsoever.”

Senator Portman: “We have already weighed in with our leadership team… This is a leadership-level thing at this point. I’m not on the committee, as you know, that deals with it, but...”

John Feal: “All four chairmen have signed off for it in the Senate and in House… And Speaker Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, at any given time they could have moved this and this it’s déjà vu all over again. We’re waiting ‘til the eleventh hour—the last given minute—to get this done like in 2010. You guys are going to have blood on your hands when more and more people get sicker and die. You are our nation’s leaders, you have a responsibility. Not to just your own state, but to the whole country.”

John Feal: “So while you guys go home and enjoy the holidays, we go home and try to enjoy the rest of our lives. Whether that’s a month or four months or six years. So the disconnect and the hypocrisy is really hard for me to digest right now because everything is just bouncing off me like bull***t... We’ve spent 21 trips here this year, that’s two and a half months out of our year, on medication on chemotherapy with lost limbs, with lost organs. In between funerals, in between wakes and we’re here asking a senator in the hallway ‘does he support our bill?’ This should have been 100 to nothing.”

Jon Stewart: “Guys like you could easily stand up right now in front of the camera and say ‘I support this bill. I can find a ‘pay-for.’ That’s not going to be an issue. Don’t worry, guys, your nation is going to take care of you.’ This thing’s already expired. They’re going to start to lose their doctors and everything else. This is the real human cost of terrorism… I know your party, and the Democrats as well, they have no problem tweeting out ‘Never forget 9/11,’ ‘Never forget our first responders,’ ‘never forget the people that protect our country.’ This is a stark hypocrisy that needs to be addressed.”

Six hours later, Feal announced that Senator Portman had agreed to become the 67th sponsor of the 9/11 bill. “His chief of staff just called me and said he was going on the bill,” Feal said.

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(H/T The Huffington Post)

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