Stewart pres­sures McCon­nell to shore up 9/11 fund

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Emily Kopp

WASH­ING­TON — Jon Stewart ratch­eted up pres­sure on Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell to reau­tho­rize the Septem­ber 11th Vic­tim Com­pen­sa­tion Fund in a late-night tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance Mon­day night.

On “The Late Show with Stephen Col­bert,” the co­me­dian con­tin­ued to lobby for restor­ing pay­ments to 9/11 re­spon­ders and sur­vivors who face med­i­cal bills and lost com­pen­sa­tion. Stewart gave emo­tional tes­ti­mony to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee last week, urg­ing the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can to reau­tho­rize the shrink­ing fund, and not use it as a bar­gain­ing chip.

“Hon­estly Mitch McCon­nell, you re­ally want to go with the ‘we’ll get to it when we get to it’ ar­gu­ment for the heroes of 9/11?” Stewart said. “You love the 9/11 com­mu­nity when it serves your po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. 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.”

Stewart’s ap­peal comes at a crit­i­cal junc­ture for the fund.

The num­ber of claimants has climbed as peo­ple ex­posed to tox­ins in the wake of the at­tacks have sought help for la­tent health prob­lems. The fund re­ceived a record num­ber of re­quests in 2018 and is on pace to eclipse that record this year — “a har­bin­ger of the in­creas­ing se­ri­ous­ness of 9/11-re­lated ill­nesses,” ac­cord­ing to fund di­rec­tor Rupa Bhat­tacharyya.

But more than $5 bil­lion of the $7.38 bil­lion re­serve has al­ready been de­pleted. Fund of­fi­cials be­gan slash­ing com­pen­sa­tion by as much as 70% in Fe­bru­ary in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a short­fall.

But McCon­nell brushed off the ur­gency of shoring up the fund in an in­ter­view with Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” Mon­day morn­ing.

“We’ve never failed to ad­dress this is­sue and we will ad­dress it again. I don’t know why he’s so bent out of shape,” the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can said, re­fer­ring to Stewart.

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