Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he doesn't know why comedian Jon Stewart got "all bent out of shape" over funding for 9/11 first responders, and insisted "we will take care of" them.
The Kentucky Republican, who's been accused over the years of slow-walking related legislation to help the emergency personnel who responded to the 2001 terrorist attacks, told "Fox & Friends" there's "no way we won't address this problem appropriately."
Stewart took to "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Monday night to respond to McConnell's response. "I'm bent out of shape for" the first responders, Stewart said. "They're suffering and dying and in terrible need. You'd think that'd be enough to get Congress's attention."
Stewart had called out McConnell on "Fox News Sunday," noting that the GOP leader had claimed earlier in the week he had always dealt with the first responders in a "compassionate way, and I assume we will again."
"I want to make it clear this has never been dealt with compassionately by Senator McConnell," Stewart said in the interview. "He has always held out until the very last minute, and only then under intense lobbying and public shaming has he even deigned to move on it."
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McConnell dismissed Stewart's concerns Monday morning.
"Many things in Congress happen at the last minute," he said. "We've never failed to address this issue and we will address it again. I don't know why he's all bent out of shape, but we will take care of the 9/11 victims' compensation fund."
Stewart, the former host of "The Daily Show," took aim at Congress during his appearance before a House subcommittee last week, where he lobbied for a bill that would ensure the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund would be funded for 70 years. Congress has paid for the fund, which will run out of money in 2020, with a series of short-term spending bills, forcing first responders who were sickened by working in the toxic rubble of the World Trade Center to repeatedly travel to Washington to plead for help.
Testifying with Stewart last Tuesday was former NYPD detective Luis Alvarez, who was headed for a 69th round of chemotherapy the next day.
Stewart noted that there were several empty seats at the hearing.
"I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to — behind me a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress," he said. "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak, to no one."
"It's shameful," Stewart said.
McConnell shrugged off that complaint on "Fox & Friends" as well.
"That frequently happens because members have a lot of things going at the same time and it sounds to me like he was looking for some way to take offense," he said.
Stewart told Colbert, "Now I feel silly. This was a huge misunderstanding. I didn't know they were busy . . I didn't mean to interrupt them — with their jobs!"
In addition, the subcommittee hearing had been held in the full committee's hearing room, increasing the number of empty chairs on the dais.
Asked if the legislation would be fully funded by the Senate after it is passed by the House, McConnell said, "Yeah."