McConnell played dumb when asked whether he supported reauthorizing a fund to compensate sick and dying 9/11 first responders.
Republicans' mistreatment of 9/11 first responders — many of whom are sick and dying of cancer and other respiratory illnesses after heroically working at Ground Zero — is once again in the spotlight after comedian Jon Stewart went to the Hill to shame lawmakers for not reauthorizing funding for health care and other costs for first responders and other 9/11 victims.
The last time the fund was reauthorized was in 2015, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chose to block a permanent fund to compensate the victims. Thanks to McConnell, those victims are now in limbo because their compensation fund and the money within it are set to expire in 2020.
Yet when asked on Tuesday whether he supports reauthorizing the fund, McConnell played dumb.
"Gosh, I hadn't looked at that lately," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I'll have to. We've always dealt with that in the past in a compassionate way, and I assume we will again."
In fact, McConnell has done anything but deal with the 9/11 responders in a "compassionate way."
He used their victim compensation fund as a political football back in 2015 — drawing ire from 9/11 first responders, who waged a demonstration at McConnell's office to get him to stop blocking their funding.
"He knew the popularity of the bill and when he didn’t get his way this is the one he pulled off the bill,” 9/11 first responder Kenny Specht said of McConnell back in 2015 during the protest, according to NBC News. "That says something about the type of man we’re dealing with here. He held us hostage and it’s not right, it’s not right."
Stewart alluded to McConnell's tactics in an impassioned speech during a committee hearing on a bill to permanently reauthorize funding for the survivors.
He didn't say McConnell's name, but he said that he won't let a "certain someone" use the fund as a "political football."
"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time," Stewart said in his remarks, in which he held back tears numerous times.
Watch Jon Stewart's speech slamming Congress for its inaction supporting 9/11 victims and first responders.
— CNN (@CNN) June 12, 2019
John Feal, a 9/11 first responder who has worked to help get compensation for his fellow suffering first responders, said on CNN Wednesday morning that it is not Democrats who have been blocking their funding.
In fact, he said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has been helping their cause, but that GOP leadership has been holding them back.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called out McConnell for blocking funding for first responders and other victims sickened by the dust in the air after 9/11.
"This is not politics. This is not a game. These are our heroes," Schumer said in a floor speech on Wednesday, addressing McConnell.
McConnell has bizarrely bragged about how the Senate has become a legislative graveyard under his watch.
You'd think that with so much time on his hands while overseeing a do-nothing Senate, McConnell would be able to spare a moment for taking care of America's heroes.
McConnell has embraced his portrayal as the "grim reaper." But that nickname is chillingly apt given that 9/11 first responders are sick and dying every day that McConnell holds Congress back from reauthorizing compensation funds for their health care.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.