Five years ago, Jon Stewart hosted four 9/11 first responders on The Daily Show to talk about Congress's inability at the time to approve a health program that helps treat injuries sustained during their work at ground zero. Now a retired Stewart is set to make the same plea to Congress next week.
"We represent the brothers and sisters that were down there," John Devlin, a New York City–based operating engineer of heavy equipment, said in 2010. "This isn't a 'me, me' to any one of us. This is about the brothers and sisters that can't come out and speak like we can."
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act became law in January 2011, spending $4.3 billion over five years in monitoring, care, and compensation for people who worked or lived near the site of the 9/11 attacks. The bill funds health care for tens of thousands of cops, firefighters, and EMTs who suffered injuries and illnesses, including nearly 4,400 with cancer, as a result of their work at ground zero. (As the Atlantic's Aria Bendix reported, studies have only recently found a hard link between health issues and 9/11 — but first responders have reported an unusual number of diseases, including cancer.)
But parts of the law are set to expire by the end of the month and next year — and beneficiaries are worried that will actually happen due to fights over the law's costs.
In response, Stewart — who's been credited with helping the law pass the first time around — plans to lead 100 first responders through the halls of Congress next week to get legislators to act. But in a highly dysfunctional Congress, it's unclear whether that will be enough.