WASHINGTON - Jon Stewart, the recently retired host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, will come to Washington next week to lobby Congress to permanently extend the expiring 9/11 Zadroga Health and Compensation Act.
A week from Wednesday, Stewart will join about 100 first responders and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to approve extending the benefits of the law, said organizers of the lobbying day and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the bill's chief Senate sponsor.
Stewart was "instrumental" in passing the original act in 2010, Gillibrand said, by dedicating his last show of that year on Dec. 16 to urge lawmakers to vote for it. They did pass it, a week later on the last day of Congress.
In July, Stewart talked with Gillibrand about helping again, and agreed to lobby.
"But it shouldn't take Jon Stewart, and it shouldn't take our first responders coming to Washington, for Congress to do its job," Gillibrand said in a telephone call with reporters.
"They shouldn't have to walk the halls of the House and Senate, asking for the benefits they have earned," she said.
Asked on the call how Stewart could persuade Republicans after spending years on his show ridiculing them, Gillibrand said, "He is an extraordinary advocate because he speaks from the heart. ... I think his passion will come through, and I think he's very persuasive about the moral imperative."
The 9/11 Zadroga Act's $1.6 billion health and monitoring effort, which has enrolled 72,000 first responders, will expire in October if not extended.
The act's $2.75 billion victims' compensation fund ends in October 2016.