(WASHINGTON) — Ground Zero recovery workers and activists had a “great” meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Tuesday afternoon, following a public feud over the 9/11 victim compensation fund.
“It was productive,” longtime activist John Feal told reporters outside the Capitol, following the meeting with McConnell.
“For now, we’re going to put down our swords and pick up our rakes,” Feal said.
After the meeting, McConnell told ABC News that he had a “good” meeting with the activists.
Earlier this month, comedian Jon Stewart made an emotional appeal to Congress to make the victim compensation fund permanent. With first responders and their advocates behind him, Stewart ripped Congress for failing to fully fund the program.
“They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!” he shouted.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which Stewart and others have battled to protect for years, is set to run out of money in December 2020.
Two weeks ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in support of refunding the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which was created to provide compensation to anyone who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.
Stewart has called out McConnell on several occasions for his inaction in the past regarding the bill.
Stewart promised in his testimony before Congress that he and other advocates wouldn’t allow a “certain someone” in the Senate to use the program as a “political football” in spending negotiations, referring to McConnell.
McConnell retaliated on “Fox and Friends” saying he didn’t know why Stewart was “bent out of shape,” and denied that he was moving slowly on the issue. He also said the extension would pass when it came up for renewal.
Feal says the meeting with McConnell Tuesday was “laid back” and relaxed — adding that in previous years — meetings with McConnell and his staff were “heated” and “emotional.”
“We covered every issue that we thought we could cover,” Feal said. “He actually sat for this one. The other ones he was quick to get up and leave his staff with us.”
Feal told reporters that they secured a commitment from McConnell to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in the Senate sometime in August, which is sooner than they expected. It is expected to clear the House in July, Feal said.
“Today Mitch McConnell promised to work for us. I’m going to take him for his word,” Feal said Tuesday.
Feal said they left McConnell with a badge belonging to retired New York Police detective Luis Alvarez as a reminder of the losses they have suffered. Alvarez, who testified with Stewart earlier this month, is not expected to live long after a battle with Stage 4 cancer. He was diagnosed 16 years after he rushed to Ground Zero after the twin towers collapsed.
“We wanted the Senate majority leader to be reminded of people like Detective Luis Alvarez,” Feal said.
“So he’s got his badge now. If he strays from his commitment, then we’ll go back into attack mode.”
Asked about the badge he received, McConnell told ABC News, “It was a great gift, and I really appreciated it.”
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