It’s rare these days to see Jon Stewart put on a tie and appear in public, but when the issue is important enough, he’s still capable of making the effort.
The former Daily Show host returned to Washington, D.C. once again on Monday, this time to assail the Trump administration’s move to disrupt the World Trade Center Health Program, making it harder for 9/11 first responders to get the treatment they need.
Surrounded by lawmakers from the both sides of the aisle, Stewart stood out outside on the windy steps of the Capitol and targeted his anger at Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who oversees the proposed change.
Joining Stewart were Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King, sponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act of 2015, which effectively made permanent the WTC Health Program.
“I want to congratulate Mick Mulvaney on a job well done,” Stewart said, sarcastically. “I don’t get to see these guys enough,” he said, gesturing towards a representative group of first responders. “So it’s always great when someone screws up their health care again and we can all get together.”
“It is a special kind of incompetence to take a program that was fought for for 15 years by firefighters, police officers, first responders, veterans and survivors, that has finally come to fruition and is finally working well,” he said of the health program, first signed into law in 2011. “It’s a special kind of incompetence to want to turn that upside down.”
The comedian joked that Schoolhouse Rock will have to be rewritten to teach children “how a bill becomes a law and one guy screws it up,” adding, “That will be known forever as pulling a Mulvaney.”
Stewart then challenged Mulvaney to come look the first responders “in the face and tell them, ‘We don’t really have any good reason for this, but we just felt like making it much more difficult for you and your family to get the health care we need.”
“Are we really doing this again?” he asked. “This is nuts.”
If the Trump administration wants to honor law enforcement, veterans and other public servants as it once proclaimed—despite attacking the FBI and Justice Department at every turn—then Stewart suggested it “stop screwing them.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Meghan Burris, press secretary for the Office of Management and Budget, pushed back against the criticism, writing, “President Trump and this budget fully fund the vital World Trade Center Health Program, which support the brave men and women still dealing with health effects of 9/11. There will be zero change in the benefits our heroes currently receive and wholly deserve. The proposal simply attempts to align long-term needs of a reimbursement program.”