Jon Stewart and 9/11 first responders, along with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, may have finally convinced Congress to fund a health care bill for recovery crews who worked to rescue victims at Ground Zero after the nation was attacked.
Eleven rescue workers have died since this year's anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and one Yonkers police officer, Roy McLauglin, died September 10, the day before. These deaths may have spurred Congress to finally extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that provides care for thousands of people who worked at Ground Zero.
The 9/11 first responder health care act expired September 30 this year. It's made up of two main components: the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victims Compensation Fund.
Together they monitor some 72,000 Americans who either worked at Ground Zero or helped rescue victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Some 33,000 sick first responders depend on the health program for treatment.
So far, 1,700 people have died from 9/11 related illnesses, according to the USA Today.
The Inquisitr previously reported comedian Jon Stewart had joined a group of fire fighters, police officers and construction workers who were lobbying Congress to extend the health care bill.
Now, they've been joined by members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America who say 9/11 first responders should receive life long health care the same way military personnel deserve treatment for their war related injuries.
Cancers like Mesothelioma, linked to the toxic debris breathed in by rescue workers, typically develop 11 to 20 years after exposure, meaning an increasing number of 9/11 first responders will require health care in the coming years.
Although some holdouts remain firm against funding the bill, the legislation is gaining ground among members of Congress and now has strong bipartisan support although critics question where the money will come from.
The health care fund currently has enough money to last until March or April of 2016, but without renewed funding it will start sending cancelation notices out to first responders in January.
Permanently extending the World Trade Center Health Program would would cost the nation some $4.4 billion for 10 years with the Victims Compensation Fund costing billions more and that has made Republicans slow to sign on. The bill has strong support among the ranks of Democrats including the presidential hopefuls except for Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, although he voted for the original law.
Of the Republican presidential contenders only New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) signed their name to the 9/11 health care bill sponsored by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) before the bill expired this year.
The group Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act tried sending letters to all the Republican presidential candidates reminding them of their 9/11 anniversary tweets #NeverForget, but none of them responded with support.The Huffington Post sent similar requests. They noted Ted Cruz's office said they were reviewing the bill; Marco Rubio's office didn't answer and Rand Paul isn't supporting it.
Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, John Kasich, Jim Gilmore, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Rick Santorum either haven't responded or said they would not support the health care bill
Pataki told the Huffington Post he was moved by the heroic response of the 9/11 first responders he witnessed first hand.
"Today, those heroes who responded so courageously need our help. They put the fight to save lives and our recovery as a nation ahead of concerns they might have felt for their own health. They have earned our support."[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]