Jon Stewart Lobbies, Chases Down Lawmakers for 9/11 First Responders

The former "Daily Show" host was out in force.

ByABC News
September 16, 2015, 4:36 PM

— -- Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart joined 100 9/11 first responders today to lobby lawmakers for the extension of 9/11 health programs, honoring a pledge made to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand during one of his final shows in July.

Gillibrand and other New York-area members of Congress enlisted Stewart's help twisting arms in support of the permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides healthcare and compensation to survivors of the September 11th attacks and first responders.

Stewart signed on to help lobby for the programs, which will begin expiring at the end of the month, after hosting Gillibrand on “The Daily Show” in July.

The comedian, who warned first responders they would be exposed to "possibly toxic levels of bull**** and arrogance" from lawmakers this morning, said Wednesday all Americans are indebted to the firefighters, police officers and EMS workers who rushed to the World Trade Center and later worked at Ground Zero.

Stewart has long advocated for sick first responders, and is credited with helping pass the initial legislation in 2010, after bringing four sick first responders on his show to publicly pressure Republican lawmakers filibustering the passage of the bill.

More than 30 Republicans have endorsed the extension proposal, but supporters are looking for more cosponsors, given resistance to funding the programs permanently.

"The time for cheap talk is over," said Rep. Peter King, R-New York. "Knock off the bs, and let's get the job done."

Stewart spent the morning lobbying Senate offices -- even chasing down Nebraska Sen. Deb Fisher, a Republican who has not signed on to the bill, in a Senate hallway.

He pressed a copy of the bill into her hands, before introducing her to a wheelchair-bound first responder with cancer.

“You could be a hero in this,” he said to Fischer, who wasn't in Congress when the health programs were first passed in 2010.

"I don't know anything about the bill," Fischer told ABC shortly after meeting Stewart. "I hadn't heard anything until he chased me down the hall."

Stewart also met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and had a "positive" meeting with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, according to a spokesperson.

Speaking this afternoon after several meetings, he said, "The real test appears to be whether we can carry the momentum from these meetings to actual legislation."

Stewart may not have his old bully pulpit, but he said he knows plenty of people on television.

"If you don't sign on to this type of thing, it has to be known," he said.

McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate will take up re-authorization of 9/11 programs, but did not say whether he supports a permanent extension, as Stewart and the bill's supporters have called for.

ABC's Ali Weinberg contributed to this report.