On Tuesday, comedian Jon Stewart delivered an emotional speech after the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund reauthorization bill was passed by the U.S. Senate.
The fund will help first responders pay for health care through 2092. U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly expected to sign the bill on Friday.
“I think we can all agree I’m the real hero,” Stewart joked during his speech.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, went on to mention several first responders, including John Feal, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez, who died in late June.
“They lifted this 9/11 community on their shoulders and they carried them home, and I will always be so proud to have been associated with it,” Stewart said. “We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them.
“And today is that day that they can exhale. Because, unfortunately, the pain and suffering of what these heroes continue to go through is going to continue. There have been too many funerals, too many hospices.”
“These families deserve better,” he concluded. “I’m hopeful that today begins the process of being able to heal without the burden of having to advocate.”
Stewart previously criticized Congress for failing to act. He said lawmakers were showing “disrespect” to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses as a result of their recovery work at the former World Trade Center site in New York City.
Stewart had called the sparse attendance at a June 11 House hearing “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution.” He later targeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for slow-walking a previous version of the legislation and using it as a “political pawn” to get other things done.
Watch Stewart’s speech in the video above.
—With files from the Associated Press
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