POLITICS
09/16/2015 08:50 am ET

Jon Stewart and 9/11 Responders Walk The Halls Of Congress

"It's kind of crazy that we're here begging. I don't get it."

WASHINGTON -- When Jon Stewart and more than 100 9/11 responders walk the halls of Congress Wednesday, they'll have plenty to say to lawmakers about renewing the bill passed five years ago to help peopled sickened after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

That bill -- the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act -- begins to expire next month, putting in jeopardy funding for the health programs used by more than 33,000 responders, as well as the benefits that help support their families.

Stewart played a key role in getting the legislation passed by using the Daily Show as a bully pulpit to shame Congress into acting. He's using his star power Wednesday to focus the attention of lawmakers again, but it's the responders themselves who will be doing most of the talking in dozens of private meetings with members and staff.

Their message, delivered a few days after most lawmakers declared on 9/11's anniversary that they would "never forget," is simple: Never is a long time -- at least remember the heroes while they are alive.

"You know, Sept. 11 happens. Right after that, how many senators and congressmen wanted to stand with their firemen and police officers, and say 'Hey, we're with you, no matter what happens,'" said Ray Pfeifer, a former city firefighter who is battling bone and kidney cancer linked to 9/11.

"Let's do the right thing. Let's get this done," he said. "I don't need to come back here -- if I live that long -- to come back in five years, or anybody who's sick, to have the stress, again, in my life, or our lives, and try to pass this thing again. It's kind of crazy that we're here begging. I don't get it."

Watch the video above to see what Pfeifer and others said about their message to lawmakers.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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