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It took Jon Stewart and lots of public outrage, but the Zadroga Act is moving forward.

Congress just decided that continuing to fund health care for 9/11 first responders is a pretty good idea.

(Also the sky is blue and candy tastes good).

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act is a bill that would extend the already existing health benefits for 9/11 first responders until 2090. It covers medical and other expenses for a long list of conditions that many first responders face as a result of the rescue and recovery efforts after the aircraft crashes on 9/11.


It's a bill that's about as controversial as this kitten:

You're not polarizing at all are you, little guy? Photo from iStock.


It came as a surprise to many people that the bill has had some trouble getting passed. So much trouble in fact, that it prompted America's newly-bearded and recently retired late night sweetheart to return to TV.

I'm speaking, of course, of Jon Stewart, who appeared on The Daily Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he urged Congress to stop playing politics with "this necessary bill" and showed just how bad things can get for the responders.

Stewart with the remaining member of a full panel of first responders from five years ago. Screenshot via "The Daily Show"/Comedy Central.

Thanks in part to Stewart's dedication and action, the Zadroga Act is now is now moving forward.

Legislators agreed on an $8.1 billion reauthorization on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, and attached it to the $1.1 trillion spending bill funding the federal government through most of 2016.

That spending bill, by the way, is the must-pass legislation that narrowly avoided yet another government shutdown before the end of the year.

Essentially, Congress took the two bills that most exemplify their inability to get stuff done on time, stapled them together, and are now nudging them through the House while patting themselves on the back.

Mad yet? Here's another kitten:

You support common sense legislation don't you, buddy?

The Zadroga Act/spending bill double-stuffed Oreo of incompetence won't be voted on until next week, but this is a positive sign.

Especially since the world's easiest bill to get behind has faced such a seemingly uphill battle.

"It's been a tough fight, and it has been a long fight, but it has been worth it," said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who's been working on 9/11 legislation since 2001. "All [the first responders] ask of us is that we never forget their sacrifice, and Congress is now sending a clear message back: We haven’t."

Many are also calling it a huge victory for the public voice.

Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaking at a news conference announcing the renewal of the Zadroga Act. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"It is a testament to the extraordinary power that Americans can have when they raise their voice and demand action,“ said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, implying that the public outcry championed largely by Jon Stewart has had a real effect on Congress deciding to act.

But the fight isn't over, and the problem never will be.

The simple fact is, a huge number of 9/11 first responders face both mental and physical health problems every day as a result of their heroic actions. Over 8,500 people are currently being treated by the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center.

In the New York Fire Department alone, 109 responders have died from illnesses linked to ground zero exposure.

Passing the Zadroga Reauthorization Act is, as Jon Stewart put it, "literally the least we can do."

Congress, it would appear, can still be trusted to do the least they can do.

The passing of this bill is important, necessary, and impossible to disagree with.

Just like this kitten:

Yes you are! YES YOU ARE!

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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