Before returning to the messier side of politics, it is important to note when government does something truly altruistic. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, it began to become obvious that numerous first responders were exposed to enough hazardous materials to significantly increase their chances of developing cancer and other fatal illnesses.
Named after James Zadroga, a young police officer who died of a respiratory illness following the attack, a bill was authored to pay for these heroes’ health care costs. Given the bill’s nature and natural bipartisan support, it seemed aid would soon come for those affected.
Shockingly, however, the bill was filibustered due to cost concerns. After stalling in the Senate, an unlikely team emerged to shame Congress into acting. Political satirist Jon Stewart, then of the Daily Show, pushed hard for the cause on his program and invited some of the first responders themselves on to make their case.
Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum, Shepherd Smith of Fox news began rallying support for the bill. These efforts paid off with the Zadroga Act passing both Houses of Congress and being signed into law by the President.
By 2015, those who relied on the act began to worry as the law seemed at risk of expiring. The new Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised that this would not come to pass, but by October, the act had indeed formally expired though funds would still be available temporarily.
As such, new efforts were launched in order to rally support for an extension. Again, comedian Jon Stewart traveled to Capitol Hill with the heroic men and women, often with shameful results since many senators refused to meet with them.
Stewart again used his Hollywood status to spread the message returning to his former program and others. Largely, the media and those of influence seemed to have little time to discuss the act with numerous other scandals and stories filling the news cycle.
Perhaps most shocking is despite the slew of candidates seeking the presidency, none seemed inclined to boost their profile by lobbying hard for the act. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders played a small part and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who Stewart had frequently poked fun of on his program, offered his support.
The relative silence surrounding the topic was deafening. As the year drew to a close, Stewart and a number of the, first responders placed the lame on the Senate majority leader.
Finally, in the closing days of the Congressional session, whatever forces were holding up the act seemed to experience a change of heart exceeding even that of Dr. Seuss’ famous Christmas antagonist, the Grinch.
The act was not only renewed but funding was put in place for enough time to likely surpass the remaining first responder’s life expectancy.