9/11 First Responders Deserve Better
9/11 First Responders Deserve Better
Yesterday was a day that should live in infamy. A sub-committee of the House Judiciary Committee met to hear testimony from 9/11 survivors in preparation for a vote to “extend a compensation fund for those ailing and dying of diseases linked to toxic debris at the disaster sites.” Except many of the committee chose not to attend the hearing. Former Late Show host Jon Stewart fought back tears during his testimony as he not only advocated for the survivors and their families but noted the lack of attendance by committee members. While I’m not normally a fan of Mr. Stewart, I applaud him today. He showed more concern for those brave first responders than our so-called representatives.
Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak . . . to no one,” said Stewart, who fought back tears at times during his remarks. “It’s shameful, it’s an embarrassment to the country. . .
I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I’m angry,” he said. ‘There is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out ‘never forget the heroes of 9/11’ . . . well here they are! And where are they? And it would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign, but it’s not. Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of.”
The disrespect shown by these lawmakers is unbelievable. Are they more concerned with doing whatever it takes to get Donald Trump out of office than they are with making sure our first responders are cared for? When did political agendas become more important to the Democratic Party than the welfare of those they supposedly support?
I know, I know. Foolish questions. Political agendas have taken the forefront where the liberals are concerned for years. Let’s face it, both parties are guilty of it. But this. . . this is something else. This behavior is something we, as voters, should loudly protest.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund expires in 2020. Its purpose is simple: To “compensate for deaths and illnesses linked to toxic exposure at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after terrorists crashed four hijacked airliners on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.” Originally operated from 2001 – 2003, Congress reopened the fund in 2011. In 2015, it extended the life of the fund until 2020. In that time, it has paid out approximately $5 billion to more than 20,000 claimants. Of those, approximately 700 died payouts were for deaths that occurred long after that terrible day due to injuries or illness stemming from the attacks.
Now, the end is nearing for the fund and, unfortunately, for a number of those first responders. If that isn’t bad enough, the fund’s special master “previously announced plans to cut payouts by between 50% and 70% to ensure all are paid.”
One of the objections some have voiced to the fund is that it is strictly a “New York” problem. But, as Stewart points out, those first responders who have suffered, and who have died, as a result of their actions in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC were from more than just NYC and New York State.
“Al-Qaeda didn’t shout death to Tribeca — they attacked America, and these men and women and their response to it is what brought our country back,” he said.
But their sacrifice, their willingness to sacrifice everything in an attempt to search for survivors and to then help recover the bodies of the fallen, apparently isn’t enough reason for some members of the sub-committee to attend the hearing. My guess is they don’t have the stones to sit there and look those first responders and their families in the eye and hear their stories. Perhaps they are worried their hearts, like the Grinch’s, might grow and they might actually feel compassion.
Who knows, they might even realize there are more important things than trying to figure out their next mode of attack on the Trump Administration.
But don’t take my word on how certain members of the sub-committee feel about the fund. Watch the end of the video of Stewart’s testimony. Watch House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D) look around as those in the gallery applaud Stewart’s comments. He gives a remarkable imitation of someone who really doesn’t want to clap but knows he has to or he will lose all credibility. Then he gives what it little more than a golf clap.
Poor Jerry, things didn’t go the way he wanted apparently.
How long until he tries to blame the funding issue on Trump? After all, he blames Trump for everything else.
At least the Republican members of the sub-committee have said they would vote for the extension. We can only hope the others will as well.
The sub-committee members who failed to attend today’s hearing should be ashamed of themselves. They should have to answer some very hard questions from their constituents on why they weren’t there. (And why the would have been there, front and center, if they’d been discussing yet another way to turn time back so they could put Hillary in the Oval Office.)
Jon Stewart said it best toward the end of his comments: “They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. . .18 years later, do yours!”
I never thought I’d agree with Stewart when it came to anything nearing politics, but in this he’s right. Members of the committee and Congress as a whole should be held accountable for following through to their promises to these first responders and their families. Those who failed to show for the hearing should be ashamed of themselves. Our country should be ashamed of this shoddy treatment of those men and women who risked it all when they could have turned and walked away.
So, to paraphrase Mr. Stewart, “Members of the Committee, members of Congress, They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. . .18 years later, do yours!”
UPDATE: Earlier today, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously–as they should–“in support of a bill that would give fresh money to a compensation fund for those who are sick or dying from illnesses linked to their work amid the toxic debris at 9/11 attack sites.” Now the bill will go to the full House, presumably sometime next month. In typical WaPo fashion, the paper predicts it will easily pass the House but its fate isn’t as certain in the Senate. No explanation is given, other than Republican. But that is a post for another day. At least the first hurdle has been cleared. Now to see what the House does when the bill comes to the floor.
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Featured image: Fire fighter pointing amidst the rubble of a burned building. 14 Sept 2001. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.