Jon Stewart exquisitely trolls Mitch McTurtle, who pretends not to see him in a less-than-crowded hallway after years of vile stonewalling on the bill. Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call. Front photo by Kevin Dietsch/ UPI
After unconscionably stalling for almost two decade, during which time 200 more sick men and women died of cancer and other ailments, the Senate finally voted 97-2 Tuesday to re-authorize funds for the 9/11 first responders' compensation fund through 2092, or effectively in perpetuity - a bittersweet victory Sen. Chuck Schumer called a rare act of "righteousness in this mangled town." The bill is named after three responders who died before they could witness the victory: Detective James Zadroga, firefighter Raymond Pfeifer, and detective Luis G. Alvarez, who just died weeks after giving emotional testimony before Congress. Family members of all three were in the Senate gallery for the final vote. The bill will replenish an existing $7.4 billion fund that's been shrinking so fast administrators recently cut benefit payments to the sick by up to 70%; the new measure will add about $10.2 billion to the fund over 10 years. Unsurprisingly, the two scurrilous no votes came from the GOP, who have no souls.
Mike Lee of Utah wanted to restrict payments to 10 years; the suddenly thrifty Rand Paul of Kentucky had earlier cited his "dismay" at the prospect of adding to a now-gazillion-dollar debt stemming in part from Trump's $1.5 trillion tax scam, which he blithely supported - a two-fer of such egregious hypocrisy that Jon Stewart, a fiery tireless advocate for first responders, was moved to rip Paul a new one, on Fox News yet. John Feal, a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero who has toiled alongside Stewart for years to get justice for his sick comrades, was succinct on the subject of the GOP blasphemers: "We whupped your asses." After the bill's passage, Feal and Stewart embraced and wept. Having seen so many cohorts die and having made so many painful lobbying trips to plead for what was rightfully theirs, Feal said the victory brought "no joy, no comfort." It was simply a chance to "to exhale, to get 18 years of pain and suffering out." "I'm going to ask my team now to put down your swords and pick up your rakes and go home, and hopefully, we don't have to come back," he said. "What I'm going to miss the most about D.C. is - nothing."
A tearful Stewart and Feal embrace after the vote. Stewart called his years of work with the first responders "the honor of a lifetime." Photo by Frank Thorp/NBC News