WASHINGTON -- Jon Stewart is back on Capitol Hill. And this time, he's angry.
Stewart visited Congress in September to implore lawmakers to pass a permanent law to help Americans ailing from their service after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The law to help those people -- including more than 33,000 who are getting 9/11-related medical care -- was about to start expiring.
With most members of the House and Senate already signed on as sponsors to a new bill that would do that, Stewart didn't see any rational reason the legislation wouldn't pass.
Yet, it has not. It remains stalled amid the common congressional bickering and horse-trading that besets most lawmaking in the nation's Capitol these days.
So Stewart returned to Washington on Thursday morning.
"Once again we're just down here dumbfounded. It's a visit with the last responders, the worst responders," he said on Capitol Hill.
Stewart, whose focus on the responders to the terrorist attacks as host of "The Daily Show" in 2010 helped get the first 9/11 law passed, might not have returned to a place he found deeply distasteful the last time, except that a near deal to pass a new bill to aid 9/11 responders collapsed this week.
Several participants in the bargaining blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for killing the agreement by trying to use 9/11 legislation as leverage to get a bill passed to ease the U.S. ban on oil exports. McConnell's office has repeatedly denied there was any agreement.
Stewart was particularly focused on McConnell Thursday, not just because of his potential blame for killing the bill, but also because the majority leader has passed very similar legislation to permanently care for ailing nuclear industry workers, many in his state.
"The man has literally sponsored and touted the exact same bill for energy workers. I honestly just wish I could understand the rationale. That bill cost twice as much what they're asking for these guys," Stewart said.
And yet the 9/11 bill remains in limbo. Although there are enough backers to pass it, time is running short before Congress quits for the year after next week.
There are still at least two major pieces of legislation that the bill could get attached to, but as far as Stewart is concerned, legislators are out of excuses.
Update: 5:13 p.m. --McConnell met with some 9/11 responders and advocates not long after Stewart arrived, and pledged to include the legislation in the upcoming omnibus spending bill that must past next week to keep the government funded, one of the responders, John Feal, said an afternoon rally with Stewart.
"He has guaranteed us a permanent health care [program]. He has guaranteed us $4.6 billion on the [Victims Compensation Fund]," Feal told the crowd.
But there was still a caveat: It's not clear where the funding will come from. "He has not guaranteed us a pay-for," Feal said.
McConnell's pledge marked an important milestone for the bill, making if highly likely to pass next week.
But the fact that uncertainty still remains did not impress Stewart, who spent the day walking the halls looking for lawmakers who haven't signed onto the 9/11 bill.
"This is stupid, and embarrassing, once again," Stewart said at the afternoon rally.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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