WASHINGTON - One day after former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart gave tearful and impassioned testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the panel unanimously passed the bill.
The measure, which was created after 9/11 to help pay for medical and economic losses as a result of the terrorist attacks, will now go to the floor of the House to be voted on. With 313 cosponsors, it will likely pass and then head to the Senate. It is unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will bring the bill to the floor.
McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he "hadn't looked at [the fund] lately."
"I'll have to," he continued. "We've always dealt with that in the past in a compassionate way, and I assume we will again."
The passage of the bill would permanently reauthorize the fund that compensates victims of 9/11 and their families.
Stewart, who has repeatedly advocated for the bill on Capitol Hill, broke down and slammed lawmakers in now-viral remarks before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. There were initially several lawmakers missing from the 14-member subcommittee.
"I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to," he said at the start of his remarks. "Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress."
He continued, saying, "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful."
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He criticized the lawmakers for failing to reauthorize the program earlier.
"[The first responders] responded in five seconds," he said Tuesday. "They did their jobs - with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. 18 years later, do yours!"
The fund is running out of money has to make steep cuts to its payments unless it's reauthorized. Previously, $7.4 billion was allocated to the fund. But as of February 2019, the fund used up $5 billion of the allocation.
There were 16,715 eligibility claims still being processed at the end of May, according to the VCF. The average compensation is about $243,000, and so far the highest claim has been $4.1 million.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., Wednesday said she was proud to vote to reauthorize the bill.
"Congress has a responsibility to take care of the brave first responders that rushed to the scene on 9/11," she wrote on Twitter. "This legislation is long over due for these American heroes."
Contributing: Nicholas Wu
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 9/11 fund bill clears House panel one day after Jon Stewart called the process 'shameful'