Since at least 2010 Jon Stewart, formerly of the Daily Show, has been striving to get Congress to provide adequate health care for the firefighters and other first responders that fought the fires and assisted victims after the World Trade Center towers were attacked by terrorists in 2001.
This morning he appeared again before the Senate Judiciary Committee to encourage Senators to approve the bill that will be voted on tomorrow, June 12. Every few years the legislation that funds health care for the 9/11 first responders suffering from cancer and other diseases expires, and the fight to do the right thing must be reintroduced and refought. The bill now pending will make health care for the 9/11 first responders permanent.
You will see in the video how strongly Mr. Stewart feels about this issue.
Here are some quotes from Mr. Stewart’s testimony:
This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on that stage and Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and takes so damn long.
Setting aside, no American should face financial ruin because of a health issue.
Certainly 9/11 first responders shouldn’t have to decide whether to live or to have a place to live.
They responded in 5 seconds. They did their job with courage, grace, tenacity, humility — 18 years later, DO YOURS.
Below is an excerpt from an article at The Sun, published September 11, 2018:
In the following days [after the attacks on 9/11], people from every state – and almost every single district – of America helped at Ground Zero – rescuing casualties, digging up bodies, cleaning up and rebuilding.
Now they are paying a high price for their selflessness – while most of the world remains oblivious to their suffering.
Over 2,000 first responders – anyone who helped out at Ground Zero, including building workers, electricians, doctors and paramedics – have died from illnesses caused by breathing in the toxic fumes that engulfed the site in the weeks after the terror attack.
As thousands more currently battle 9/11-related diseases such as cancer or severe respiratory disease, shockingly, it’s predicted that by the end of this year the number of first responders who have died since the tragic event will overtake the number who died on the day…
Where were you when you first heard about the attacks on September 11, 2001?
I was the Planning Section Chief on the Swamp Ridge Fire Complex on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and was about to lead the morning Operational Period briefing where I would hand out the Incident Action Plan with the cover you see below.
We had no smart phones or Twitter, but someone happened to be listening to the AM/FM radio in his truck and heard it on the news. When I learned about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center I figured it was an accident, thinking about the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945. But when the second one crashed into the other tower, I knew it was not an accident.
Our Incident Commander aggressively insisted that everything go on as planned, allowing almost no acknowledgement of the tragedy. We still had to manage the fire, of course, but I felt that it was a huge event that was having an impact on the whole country including everyone assigned to the fire. A little more empathy was warranted, I believed, for how it was affecting the United States and our personnel. It seemed as if a little PTSD was creeping into our organization out in the middle of nowhere, dozens of miles by road from the nearest small town. An official acknowledgement of what was happening to our country, and encouraging people to talk about it, would have been helpful.
After a day or two we rented a satellite TV receiver system and a large TV for the Incident Command Post which made it possible for us to watch a few minutes of the 24/7 coverage now and then or at the end of our shift.
All non-military aircraft were grounded for a while, including our firefighting helicopters. I remember being in my tent at night trying to sleep and hearing what was a surprisingly large number of aircraft flying high overhead through the darkness. Having little contact with the outside world, especially during the first few days, I wondered where all those military aircraft were going. It was a rather uncomfortable feeling, to say the least.
Remember the huge battles to get the bill passed to provide health care for the firefighters that were suffering from medical issues after working in the debris from the towers that fell during the 9/11 attacks? Most of us felt a huge relief when the “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“ was finally passed. We wrote about it several times, with the latest being HERE.
It turns out that the bill, or at least the way the provisions are being interpreted, does not cover the treatment of cancer for the firefighters that worked on the debris pile. Cancer — you would think this would be close to the number one condition covered for the people that worked in that toxic environment.
John Howard, the World Trade Center Health Program administrator, said in a statement that cancer would not be covered because there is not adequate “published scientific and medical findings” that a causal link exists between September 11 exposures and the occurrence of cancer in responders and survivors. So if we wait, and study the link for another, what, 20 or 30 years we can prove it then?
This is a disgrace.
Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, in a piece named “I Thought We Already Took Care of This S@#t”, expresses his opinion on the issue. The clip has profanity, but it is bleeped out.
NorthJersey.com has more details about this development.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has a vastly different approach. For years the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba have had presumptive coverage for a list of conditions for firefighters. If they are diagnosed with one of the cancers on the list, it is considered an occupational disease and they may be eligible for workers compensation benefits. In fact, Alberta expanded their list in May to include prostate, breast, skin and multiple myeloma, bringing the total to 14 types covered under the Workers Compensation Board. Their government acknowledges that firefighters are at a greater risk of contracting cancer than the general public, and it can be difficult or impossible to prove that a particular case of cancer was caused by a specific incident or exposure, on or off the job.
I ran across a news article about Senator Joesph Lieberman (I-CT) accepting the nomination to serve as one of the seven or eight Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, a nonpartisan group of more than 320 members of congress which:
…unites Republicans and Democrats in support of fire service legislation that benefits all first responders.
In perusing the Caucus’s web site, which is run by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, it turns out that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is the Chairman of the Caucus. His name rings a bell as the off-camera Representative to which Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was directing his anger in the video we posted on July 30, 2010. (Here is a link to another video about that encounter.)
The heated rhetoric between the two members of congress concerned a procedural delay introduced by Rep. King which initially prevented the passage in the House of the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill, officially known in the Senate as “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“. Rep. King sought to delay the passage of the bill while Rep. Weiner angrily recommended passage. The bill would provide health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. Finally, the House passed the bill in September.
Recently, however, Rep. King has come out strongly in favor of the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill. In fact, he is one of the few Republicans to openly support it, and on December 7, 2010 wrote a letter to his Republican colleagues asking for their votes in the Senate.
There is still a chance that the bill will receive an up or down vote in the Senate before the session ends this year. Votes have been prevented previously by a Republican filibuster. If it is not passed by the Senate this year, the slate will be wiped clean and it will have to be re-introduced in both the House and the Senate next year.
But you can help get the bill passed. CALL YOUR SENATORS!Here is a list of their phone numbers.
If you are still undecided about helping firefighters, check out Jon Stewart’s position on the issue of health care for 9/11 first responders.
This bill is gathering more attention thanks to Jon Stewart. It appears that there are enough votes now in the Senate to pass a slightly revised version. BUT. There is one Senator that says he will hold it and prevent its passage. That esteemed individual is Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).
In an interview on Fox News Coburn said two of his reasons for killing the bill are:
1. The bill has not been through a committee yet and there have been no hearings.
WRONG. A committee that Coburn is on held hearings on the bill, but Coburn chose not to attend.
2. Coburn said: “This is a bill that has been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”
WRONG. The bill was introduced in the Senate June 24, 2009, and was passed by the House on September 29, 2010, but has not been voted on in the Senate.
It is incredible that an idiot like this can single-handedly prevent our 9/11 first responders, some of whom are dying from exposure to toxic shit at the 9/11 site, to receive the health care they need.
Even if the Senate does pass this bill over the insane objections of Senator Dufuss Coburn, the House will still need to vote on the revised version, since it has been changed after they passed it in September.
Even Fox New’s Shep Smith took on Senator Coburn today for his stance on this bill. See the 37-second video HERE.
Shep Smith called many Senators who refused to talk with him about the bill. “We called a lot of Republicans today who are in office at the moment,” he said Monday afternoon. “These are the ones who told us ‘no’: Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Enzi, Grassley, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Baucus, Gregg, and Inhofe. No response from Bunning, Coburn, Ensign, Graham, Hatch, and McCain.”
And we wrote more about it on December 17, 2010. That post has two videos in which Jon Stewart takes on the issue.
Call your two Senators (list of phone numbers) especially if one or both of them are Republicans, most of whom plan to vote against the bill.
Call Senator Tom Coburn’s office at (202) 224-5754.
A few hours after we wrote our second article about this issue on December 17, if you searched Google for “9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill”, that Wildfire Today article was the fifth one listed on the first page. Now there has been so much publicity about the issue that Wildfire Today does not show up in the first five pages of Google results.
This is the sixth time we have used the tag “idiot” for an article since January, 2008.