Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart is heading back to Washington next week—this time to lobby for a permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
Stewart plans to roam the halls of Congress with roughly a hundred 9/11 responders next Wednesday. The goal is to pressure lawmakers to continue funding health programs for thousands of firefighters, cops, and EMTs who suffer from illnesses, including cancer, caused by their work at ground zero.
“Honored Jon Stewart will join 9/11 heroes next week, but fact is, they shouldn’t have to walk the halls of Congress at all,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s our moral obligation to ensure they get care.”
Other lawmakers who have worked on renewing this legislation have lauded the 52-year-old comedian for his efforts.
“Jon Stewart was one of the driving forces behind getting the Zadroga Act passed in the first place, but the law is set to expire unless Congress acts again,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said in a statement. “The ailing 9/11 responders and survivors are suffering a range of health care problems. We can’t force them to come back to Capitol Hill every five years to beg for their health care. Nobody understands that better than Jon Stewart, and nobody is better suited to make sure Congress gets the message.”
“Jon Stewart was on the front lines of the battle helping us to establish these programs,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said. “We are all grateful to him for once again fighting for our 9/11 heroes.”
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), whom Stewart once called a hypocritical “terrorist sympathizer,” is praising the comic for bringing attention to the issue.
“I welcome his help,” the congressman told The Daily Beast. “Any help we get is vital…Whatever political or philosophical difference we have, I give him a lot of credit for going at an issue that is important to get public support for. He was helpful, there’s no doubt about it.”
Stewart has been a vocal advocate for 9/11 responders for years. In December 2010, he invited first responders onto his Comedy Central program to offer their thoughts on Senate Republicans filibustering the Zadroga bill.
His focus on the legislation garnered Stewart plenty of positive coverage that year, which included The New York Times asking, “Does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart—despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism—the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?”
Stewart’s rep did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.