Comedian Jon Stewart, an outspoken advocate for 9/11 first responders, blasted Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for his objection Wednesday to a bipartisan bill to ensure a compensation fund for victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks never runs out of money.
Speaking to Fox News host Bret Baier on Wednesday, Stewart called Paul's objection to the bill, which the libertarian-aligned senator said should be offset by spending cuts, was "outrageous" and "an abomination."
"Pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling," Stewart said, noting that Paul supported President Donald Trump's tax cut that "added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit." He accused Paul of trying to “balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community.”
“At some point, we have to stand up for the people who have always stood up for us, and at this moment in time maybe cannot stand up for themselves due to their illnesses and their injuries," Stewart said. "And what Rand Paul did today on the floor of the Senate was outrageous.”
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Earlier Wednesday, Paul and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected to a request from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to approve the legislation by unanimous consent, which would have fast-tracked its approval.
Paul questioned the bill's 70-year time frame and called for the spending to be offset with cuts, pointing to the government's $22 trillion debt. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the compensation bill would result in about $10.2 billion in additional payments over the next decade.
"Not blocking the 9/11 bill — simply asking for a vote on an amendment to offset the cost," Paul tweeted Wednesday.
Paul fired back at Stewart in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.
"I know Jon Stewart," Paul said. "Jon Stewart is sometimes funny, sometimes informed. But in this case, he’s neither funny nor informed.”
A spokesman for Lee said that the senator "believes authorizing an infinite amount of money for any program is not conducive to good government."
The legislation has 74 Senate co-sponsors and passed the House by a wide margin last week. It's expected to pass the Senate before lawmakers leave for an August recess.
"This is unacceptable," Gillibrand tweeted. "9/11 first responders are suffering and dying for their heroism, and my Republican colleagues can't get it together to help them. I ask you: What are you even doing here?"