“I want to make it clear that this has never been dealt with compassionately by Senator McConnell,” Stewart said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He has always held out until the very last minute, and only then, under intense lobbying and public shaming, has he even deigned to move on it.”
Asked about Stewart’s criticism, McConnell argued Monday that “many things in Congress happen at the last minute.” He added that the fund, which provides compensation to first responders and others who are sick or dying from illnesses linked to their work at the 9/11 attack sites, will be fully funded.
“We have never failed to address this issue, and we will address it again,” McConnell said. “I don’t know why he’s all bent out of shape, but we will take care of the 9/11 victims compensation fund.”
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of extending the fund, which is currently set to stop taking claims in December 2020. The measure is expected to pass the House, although its fate in the Senate remains unclear; Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week that he was “begging” McConnell to bring the legislation to the floor “immediately after it passes the House.”
Schumer renewed his call Monday, addressing McConnell in a tweet.
“I’ll tell you why,” Schumer said in response to McConnell questioning why Stewart was “all bent out of shape.” “Because 9/11 victims are getting sicker, and the last time this bill came up you delayed.”
The House panel’s vote came one day after Stewart, the former host of “The Daily Show,” excoriated members of Congress at a hearing on the legislation.
“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” Stewart told a Judiciary subcommittee. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress.”
McConnell responded Monday that committee and subcommittee hearings are frequently empty “because members have a lot of things going on at the same time.”
“It sounds to me like he’s looking for some way to take offense,” he said of Stewart. “There’s no way we won’t address this problem appropriately. We have in the past. We will again in the future.”
Devlin Barrett and Marisa Iati contributed to this report.