Comedian Jon Stewart and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday sharply criticized a Trump administration proposal to restructure an agency that provides health-care assistance to survivors and first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The former “Daily Show” host, who has made advocating for Sept. 11 survivors a focal point of his career since leaving Comedy Central, slammed Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney for seeking to separate the World Trade Center Health Program from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, where it is housed.
“It’s a special kind of incompetence to want to turn that upside down,” Stewart said of the proposed changes to the agency during a press conference on Capitol Hill.
The program, which offers medical benefits to individuals affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks, was established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It was signed into law in 2011 and reauthorized by Congress in 2015, with the NIOSH, an offshoot of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, designated to administer the agency.
President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposed moving the program into the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Mulvaney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Several lawmakers on Monday said restructuring the program and shifting its resources would hamper officials’ ability to provide assistance to 9/11 responders and survivors.
“In the name of the men and women who rely on the World Trade Center Health Program, in the names of their families and children and grandchildren, we call on Mick Mulvaney and the administration to reverse this proposal and protect the responders and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said.
Nadler questioned the logic behind tinkering with a program that he said “has worked very well.”
“We made a promise to them that this program would be there for them no matter what,” Nadler added. “I refuse to walk back that promise because of some misguided, uninformed policy proposal.”
Stewart did not mince words in criticizing the OMB chief, arguing Mulvaney was bucking the legislative process.
“I don’t know if there are children watching, but I urge parents to put their children in front of the television to learn about government this way,” Stewart said. “They’ll have to rewrite School House Rock as to how a bill becomes a law and one guy screws everything up.”
The comedian added: “That will be known forever as ‘pulling a Mulvaney.’”