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Jon Stewart: 9/11 victims are ‘at the end of their rope’ seeking help from Congress

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Jon Stewart: 9/11 victims are 'at the end of their rope' seeking help from Congress

Fresh off of his emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on behalf of 9/11 victims and first responders, Jon Stewart continued to lobby for the cause while expressing great frustration over the need to convince people to help the victims.

The former “Daily Show” host’s June 11 appearance went viral after he chastised Congress for failing to act to pass legislation to ensure continued funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. On Sunday, he lamented having to do it in the first place.

9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: IS THE VICTIMS’ COMPENSATION FUND WHERE WE WANT TO PLANT THE FLAG OF ‘FISCAL CONSTRAINT?’

“I think this community is at the end of their rope,” he said. “I think there’s a feeling of disbelief, that they can’t understand why they have to continually saddle up and ride down to Washington to make these appeals for something that should be simple but is somehow, through politics, made agonizingly difficult.”

Without a new bill, the fund is at risk of running out of money next year. Survivors, many of whom suffer from ongoing health problems due to their experiences helping at Ground Zero, would then have trouble getting treatment for their ailments.

After the World Trade Center collapsed as a result of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters, and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection.

In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared almost immediately, others with illnesses that developed as they aged, including cancer.

More than 40,000 people have applied to the Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.

The current fund allows for claims through 2020, and Stewart is pushing to keep funding so that survivors could make claims and receive money through 2090, so that money remains throughout the lives of the people who need it. Stewart estimated that this would cost an addition $12 billion.

Stewart’s testimony before Congress highlighted the juxtaposition of the heroism and quick response by those who put themselves at risk on 9/11, next to the slow movement shown by Congress.

“They responded in 5 seconds,” Stewart said of first responders. “They did their jobs with courage, grace tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!”

The following day, the full House Judiciary Committee approved the bill, which will next go before the full House, where it is expected to pass before moving to the Senate. Stewart is concerned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is not on board.

“In terms of getting the 9/11 bills passed, Mitch McConnell has been the white whale of this since 2010,” Stewart said.

“This is not a Republican-Democrat issue,” Stewart clarified, noting bipartisan support for the bill. He claimed that McConnell, however, has used 9/11 bills for political leverage.

“In 2010, he used it to make sure that the Bush tax cuts would be permanent,” Stewart recalled. “In 2015, he took it out of the transportation bill because he wanted to extract some promises on oil imports.”

Host Chris Wallace raised concerns about Stewart’s goals about keeping the victims’ fund open-ended through 2090.

“It should be open-ended because cancer doesn’t have an expiration date on it,” Stewart responded.

Wallace also mentioned claims that the federal government should not be getting involved in the matter because it is a New York issue that should be handled by the state government.

Stewart said that is akin to claiming that Washington should not have gotten involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor because “that’s a Hawaii issue.”

JON STEWART’S 9/11 HEARING HELPS PAINT PICTURE CONGRESS WANTS MORE MONEY FOR NOT WORKING – AND IT’S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO CHANGE

Stewart’s tearful testimony before the House subcommittee included a rebuke of those members of Congress who failed to appear, referencing the many empty chairs. The subcommittee later responded by noting that only two of their members were absent, including Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who is campaigning for president. Stewart was unmoved by this.

“They kept saying, ‘Well, you know it was a sub-subcommittee,'” he told Fox News after the hearing, “and I’m like, but there’s still people on the sub-subcommittee that aren’t here.’ Either 9/11 was a priority or it wasn’t, but at some point match your tweets and your words.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Deep budget cuts put University of Alaska in crisis mode; ‘grappling with survival’

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Civil rights groups sue Tennessee over law imposing new penalties on voter registration

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – The University of Alaska board of regents, facing deep budget cuts exacted by the governor that will eliminate about 40% of the university’s state funding, voted at an emergency meeting on Monday to declare the academic equivalent of bankruptcy reorganization.

The regents’ 10-1 vote puts the university into “financial exigency,” a status allowing administrators to summarily fire tenured faculty and other staff, close whole academic programs and even shut down entire campuses. Up to 2,000 employees could lose their jobs, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen has said.

The drastic move is necessary, regents said, because of line-item spending vetoes by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy that slashed $440 million from the budget passed by the state legislature, including $130 million from the university system.

Dunleavy, who took office in December and is an outspoken supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, has called for major cuts in higher education, health care and other social programs as he pushes to sharply raise the annual oil revenue dividend that Alaska pays to nearly every state resident.

Lawmakers attempted on July 10 to reverse Dunleavy’s budget vetoes but failed to muster the required three-quarters vote to override the governor. The result, the regents said at their meeting, is tragic for the university.

  “Unfortunately, we are now grappling with survival,” said John Davies, the board of regents’ chairman.

Davies disputed Dunleavy’s assertion that sharp cuts to the university and other programs were necessary because Alaska faces a financial crisis.

“I believe it’s more of a political crisis. It’s some decisions that have been made by the governor and by a minority of the legislature,” he said.

The budget as passed by the legislature contained a surplus. Dunleavy imposed deep cuts, nevertheless, while pushing to nearly double the dividend paid to residents each year from oil revenues collected for the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Dunleavy’s proposal for a record $3,000 dividend this year, at a time of declining oil industry receipts, would cost the state an estimated $2 billion.

The University of Alaska operates its three main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau, with 13 smaller satellite campuses in remote communities such as Nome, Bethel and Kodiak. The $130 million cut by the governor is more than the cost of running the entire Anchorage campus, Johnsen has said.

The university, especially the Fairbanks campus, is considered a world-class hub for Arctic and climate-change research, and some Dunleavy critics have accused the governor of targeting the university because of that.

“Some prominent conservatives deny the reality of human-caused climate change, and so curtailing UA research is great from their perspective,” Susan Henrichs, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks provost, said in a column published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Regents had considered declaring financial exigency a week ago but postponed their decision. Since then, Moody’s sharply downgraded the university’s bond rating, giving it a “negative” outlook.

Members of the legislature’s bipartisan majority coalition said they still hope to restore funding to the university and other programs.

Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler

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Trump announces ‘real compromise’ on budget deal with congressional leaders

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Trump announces 'real compromise' on budget deal with congressional leaders

The Trump administration and congressional leaders, including Democrats, have reached a critical debt and budget agreement, a deal that amounted to an against-the-odds victory for Washington pragmatists seeking to avoid politically dangerous tumult over fiscal deadlines, President Trump announced Monday.

The deal would increase spending caps by $320 billion relative to the limits prescribed in the 2011 Budget Control Act, whose provisions have repeatedly been waived year after year. It would also suspend the debt ceiling and permit more government borrowing until July 31, 2021 — after the next presidential election.

The arrangement all but eliminates the risk of another government shut down this fall, but already has been drawing the ire of fiscal conservatives saying it will lead to more irresponsible government spending.

Even some Democrats — including Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy — were outraged, saying the bill would not block Trump from spending money on his proposed border wall.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump wrote.

He added: “This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!”

Democrats celebrated that, under the new deal, the domestic, non-military budget receives larger increases than the defense budget, when compared to last year. Democrats also lauded the deal’s allocation of $2.5 billion for the 2020 Census, to ensure that all residents are counted.

The deal, which must still pass Congress, also comes as budget deficits have been rising to $1 trillion levels — requiring the government to borrow a quarter for every dollar the government spends — despite the thriving economy and three rounds of annual Trump budget proposals promising to crack down on the domestic programs that Pelosi, D-Calif., has been defending.

It apparently ignored warnings from fiscal conservatives saying the nation’s spending has been unsustainable and eventually will drag down the economy.

“This agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington advocacy group. “It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump says deal reached on spending, debt limit

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Trump says deal reached on spending, debt limit

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday a two-year deal had been reached with congressional leaders to raise the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority and to set budget spending caps.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump said on Twitter.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander

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