In this lame duck session, Senate Republicans are grasping at every possible reason to “run out the clock” on any Democratic priority. Their brazen obstruction, however, took some victims last week when they used another filibuster to block the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Named after a New York City policeman who died from health complications, this legislation that provides health care to 9/11 first responders and emergency workers who suffered illnesses from working at Ground Zero.
Not one Republican senator came to the floor to explain why the desperately needed, fully paid-for compensation didn’t deserve to pass. When Fox News’ Don Imus pressed Sen. John Thune (R-SD) for an explanation, Thune said the tax cuts are a bigger priority because “there is a deadline.” And when first responders came to the Senate to advocate for the bill yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) actually called the Capitol police on them to prevent a sit-in.
Such callous miscarriage of responsibility was not lost on The Daily Show. Ripping the GOP earlier this week for “co-opting 9/11 imagery” while simultaneously killing legislation to help 9/11 victims, host Jon Stewart dedicated his entire show last night to censure their obstruction. Disgusted by Thune’s “deadline for taxes” excuse, Stewart scoffed, “yes there are only two sure things in life. Death and taxes. Apparently, the only thing this cat cares about is taxes.”
Then, in a unique segment for the Daily Show, Stewart held a panel discussion with four 9/11 first responders suffering from serious health issues to offer their views on Republican obstruction. Recounting Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) silence over their plight, Stewart then played McConnell’s emotional, teary farewell to retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). The first responders pointed to McConnell’s tears as a sign of his grossly misplaced priorities:
STEWART: That’s Sen. Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate, he’s talking about Sen. Judd Gregg who’s retiring from the Senate.
JOHN DEVLIN, ENGINEER: Yeah, he’s shedding a tear on his lunch buddy that he hangs out with everyday. Where is his human feeling for — not only for us, we represent the brother and sisters…that can’t come out and speak like we can. It’s sad to see someone like him –
STEWART: To be fair, they have worked together for six years. [...]
KENNY SPECK, FDNY: Watching that, there’s only one thing I can say. I found time to dress as a New York City fireman on September 11, isn’t that incredible?…I tell you I feel bad for Mitch McConnell, you know, he said something very important. He’s going to watch his friend walk out of the Senate chambers, and unfortunately that’s more than a New York City firefighter can say about 343 of his brothers who can’t walk anymore.
Stewart then noted another GOP excuse for this tragic miscarriage of responsibility — “hey man, it’s Christmas” — and asked for their take on Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) complaint that working after Christmas was somehow “disrespectful” to the Senate:
STEWART: Basically what he’s saying is that I can’t stay here and work between Christmas and New Years, that would be disrespecting Christians and his family. Do you have any thoughts on that?
SPECK: It just goes to show the disconnect between those we elect to represent us, and those who get out there and do the work. Because I’m here to say that you won’t find a single New York City firefighter who considers it a sign of disrespect to work in a New York City firehouse on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.[...]
DEVLIN: It was an honor to work through Christmas on that 9/11.
Stewart Spends Last Show Of 2010 ENTIRELY On 9/11 First Responders Bill (VIDEO)
Thursday night marked the final "Daily Show" of the year -- and the decade -- and Jon Stewart devoted the entire program discussing something near to his heart: the 9/11 First Responders Bill.
Stewart has probably done more segments this year on the legislation known as the Zadroga Bill than any other topic. The bill would provide $7 billion in benefits for those who first responded on 9/11 and are now experiencing subsequent health problems such as cancer and respiratory disease. While it passed the House, Republicans have blocked the bill from advancing in the Senate.
Stewart noted that, while the 9/11 first responders bill is stuck, Congress did manage to pass the controversial tax bill that will extend tax cuts to everyone including the super wealthy.
"Yes!" Stewart exclaimed. "That is astoundingly good news for firefighters who make over $200,000 a year."
Nearly pulling his hair out at one point, Stewart expressed his annoyance at "the party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase" now blocking legislation to help its heroes. Adding to his frustration, none of the three major networks have covered the story in over two months. Surprisingly, Stewart realized this was actually a job for Fox News, "the nation's leading source of 9/11-based outrage."
But how does the conservative network feel about Republicans blocking the bill? As Stewart showed, Fox News hasn't gotten one 9/11 first responder to talk about why they need the Zadroga Bill. in fact, only one network actually picked up the story in a meaningful way: Al Jazeera.
"Our networks were scooped with a sympathetic Zadroga Bill story by the same network Osama bin Laden sends his mix-tapes to!" Stewart said with frustration. "This is insane!"
In the following segment, which you can watch below, Stewart interviewed four actual 9/11 first responders and heard their response to the Senate logjam. Things get emotional -- it's a must-watch.