Bill for 9/11 Responders Sails From House to Senate

Entertainer and activist Jon Stewart speaks at a Friday news conference on behalf of 9/11 victims and families at the Capitol in Washington. The House approved a bill Friday ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund for the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money. (AP Photo/Matthew Daly)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House voted 402-12 Friday to give 9/11 first responders an aid package that drew national attention after former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart gave rousing testimony in support of the bill at the Judiciary Committee.

“They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs,” Stewart testified back on June 11. “Eighteen years later, do yours!”

The bill passed through committee unanimously following that hearing. Its passage today by the full House will effectively make permanent a compensation fund for responders and victims of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington by paying out all eligible claims until 2090.

The fund will bring long-awaited support to survivors who are sick and dying. Luis Alvarez, a former New York City police detective who testified alongside the comedian in June, was one of 16 survivors who died in just the last month, Stewart told an MSNBC reporter Friday.

Two weeks after appearing before the committee, Alvarez died of colorectal cancer at age 53. Legislators added his name to the bill passed Friday.

“This is a community that is being decimated and they died as much from 9/11 as those that died that day,” Stewart said in the MSNBC interview.

Speaking before the committee in June, Stewart lambasted absent members for not being present to hear the stories of survivors like Alvarez.

“There is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out ‘Never forget the heroes of 9/11,’” said Stewart, adding that indifference by Congress had cost survivors their most precious commodity – time.

Political commentators later pointed out that it is common practice for members to jump between multiple committees to address legislative business.

The damage of chemotherapy visible on his thin frame, Alvarez told the House Judiciary in his June testimony that the fund was not a “ticket to paradise” but a means to access care.

“You all said you would never forget,” Alvarez said. “Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to pass the bill through the Senate before Congress heads into summer recess the first week of August.

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