Comedian Jon Stewart and activist John Feal ripped into Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) for stalling a bill Wednesday that would expand a compensation fund for first responders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The people from the state of Kentucky and the people from the state of Utah deserve much better,” Feal, a 9/11 first responder himself, told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Wednesday. “I think they lack humanity.”
The bipartisan 9/11 victim compensation bill, which passed through the House last week with overwhelming support, hit a snag in the Senate on Wednesday after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) asked for unanimous consent to pass it.
Paul blocked the proposal and called on the Senate to first debate an amendment that would offset the costs of the fund. Lee also “placed a hold on the legislation,” according to The Washington Post.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 first responders, eviscerated Paul during his appearance Wednesday on Fox News. He accused Paul of “fiscal responsibility virtue signaling” for being a hard-liner on the federal budget this week after voting in favor of President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion tax cut in 2017, which added billions of dollars to the national deficit.
“It’s absolutely outrageous,” Stewart said. “Now he stands up at the last minute after 15 years of blood, sweat and tears from the 9/11 community to say that it’s all over. Now we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community.”
“At some point we have to stand up for the people who have always stood up for us,” he continued. “You know, there are some things that they have no trouble putting on the credit card. But somehow, when it comes to the 9/11 first responder community ― the cops, the fire fighters, the construction workers, the volunteers, the survivors ― all of a sudden, we have to go through this.”
Both Paul and Lee defended their moves to stall the bill. In a statement to the Post, Lee’s office said the senator “fully expects the 9/11 compensation bill to pass before the August recess and he is seeking a vote to ensure the fund has the proper oversight in place to prevent fraud and abuse.”
Paul’s office, in a statement, denied that the senator is “blocking” the proposed legislation and said he is “simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation.”
But neither Feal nor Stewart was moved by their statements.
“They’re bottom feeders,” Feal said. “You can’t cherry-pick and choose when you want to be a conservative fiscal hawk. That’s just insulting to our intelligence, and shame on them. They lack humanity. They lack leadership.”
Feal said he’s confident that the bill will eventually make it to the Senate floor for a straight up-or-down vote.
As years have passed and the number of cancer diagnoses among 9/11 first responders has increased, the Victim Compensation Fund has had to deal with an increase in claims. The Never Forget the Heroes Act would extend and fund the VCF through 2090.
Stewart noted that the fund has proven to be effective and reliable over the years since it’s been put in place. There has been no reported fraud, waste or abuse of the funds, he said.
“Your budgetary priorities are either moved by a moral compass or they’re not,” Stewart said. “This is an outrageous place for them to take a stand and cause, once again, pain and heartache and suffering within a community that has felt so much of that over these past few years.”