The proverbial “clown nose” is as far off as it can be here.
This is an effective impromptu speech, worth watching in full despite its length. He delivered it at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, taking great offense at the lack of turnout among members. If 9/11 responders sick with cancer could turn out today to beg for health-care help, said Stewart, healthy members of the subcommittee should have turned out to listen. Democrat Steve Cohen pointed out that the number of empty chairs was misleading: The room was designed for hearings held by the full committee and this was a hearing of a much smaller subcommittee.
But even the subcommittee didn’t turn out in full. “A little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats,” said CBS. Why most Republicans chose to skip it is unclear. Simple scheduling conflicts? Antipathy to Stewart from his “Daily Show” days? Fear of being attacked for worrying about the cost of the fund? That would have been a reasonable fear, if so. After the hearing, in an interview with Shep Smith, Stewart blamed the 9/11 fund’s precariousness on “fiscal hawks,” the people “who, despite passing a $1.5 trillion corporate tax cut for Exxon, now claim that the percentage — which is basically a rounding error off of the deficit — is going to maybe blow up the country 10 years from now.”
The fund was created in 2010, you may recall, on the cusp of the tea-party takeover of the House. As a concession to Republicans at the time, funding wasn’t authorized in perpetuity but would need to be reauthorized every five years. The bill is now coming due for 2020, with the fund’s administrator having already warned about steep cuts due to the need to ensure that all beneficiaries are at least partially paid. Stewart, the first responders, and family members were there today to beg, essentially, so that the costs of the environmental illnesses they contracted from the 9/11 rescue and clean-up effort will continue to be covered.
They will be. This clip will help to see to it by going viral and inevitably bringing public pressure on Trump. There’s no fiscal hawk within the GOP so powerful that they’ll be able to resist if the president declares it a matter of patriotic duty to see that the first responders are taken care of. Which, I assume, he will: It’s unthinkable that a lifelong New Yorker of all people, particularly one who so often wraps himself in the flag and who isn’t normally prone to worrying about the cost of government, would let the heroes of 9/11 be nickel-and-dimed on cancer treatments. If nothing else, Trump would resent it if Stewart came to be seen as a greater advocate for first responders than he is. He’ll push McConnell to authorize the money if only to avoid being one-upped.
I’m tempted to ask why Stewart didn’t appeal to Trump personally to get the funding, as there’s nothing POTUS seems to enjoy more than doing a favor for a supplicant. Maybe, given the history between them, Stewart figured that was unlikely to work in his case.