Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss their shared victory as the leading advocates for the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act. The bill will provide financial assistance to sick and injured 9/11 first responders and victims of the attack.
In his final show of the 2010, Stewart departed from his regular comedy routine to speak seriously about the importance of the bill and how little media coverage it had received. He then brought five sick first responders on to share their stories and to respond to clips of lawmakers who didn’t vote for it.
Gillibrand has been involved in negotiations for the bill. She also appeared on news programs and wrote a popular editorial for the Huffington Post on the subject.
Stewart led off the interview by reading a list of Gillibrand’s accomplishments and a joke about how quickly she was getting things done in the Senate in only the her first two years there. The crowd cheered loudly for her.
He then commented on the significant legislation passed during the lame duck session and once again mentioned the Zadroga bill.
“Did you do a show?” Gillibrand asked him jokingly. She told Stewart that it really made a difference and he appeared flustered. “I know you’re shy, I know you’re modest, but it really made a difference,” she continued, “What you did is you put a spotlight on an issue, and all these first responders have been going at it for years.”
“That’s the thing that’s crazy, that it has to be on television to mean anything.” Stewart responded. He thanked his staff for working on the bill and compared his actions to that of a good Samaritan. “I feel like we drove by a burning car on the highway and went ‘uh… someone should call this in’”
Republicans originally rejected the bill, arguing that it would be too expensive and that the plan to pay for it was insufficient.
As the public learned more about the bill it became clear to senators that a compromise had to be made. Both New York Senators met with Republicans Enzi and Coburn and after negotiations, the $4.2 billion measure, down from its original $7.4 billion, was able to pass the senate with unanimous support.