Stewart, Caucus Deserve Credit For Advancing 9/11 Bill

Much was made of comedian Jon Stewart’s shaming of Republicans in the House of Representatives for failure to replenish a compensation fund for first responders who were injured or sickened by their work related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Stewart deserves much attention, by the way. His advocacy for the first responders should never be forgotten.

Playing a lesser role in the suddenly rapid advancement of the Never Forget the Heroes Act, though, was U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and the Problem Solvers Caucus. A change in the House of Representatives’ rules engineered by the caucus allowed rank-and-file House members to bring the 9/11 first responders’ legislation to the floor of the House. The change was part of a rules package the caucus crafted in 2018 and pushed to adoption in January.

Once a bill reaches 290 co-sponsors, a 25 legislative day clock will begin. If the primary committee of jurisdiction does not report the bill by the end of the 25 legislative days, the legislation will be placed on the new “Consensus Calendar” where it will remain until the bill is considered. For every in-session week, after February 28 of the first session and before September 30 of the second session, majority leadership will be required to bring at least one bill on the “Consensus Calendar” to the House floor.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes 22 Democrats and 22 Republicans, endorsed the Never Forget the Heroes Act in March. Those 44 Congress members pushed the bill over the 290-sponsor threshold and allowed it to proceed. It was the first time the fast track clause has been used.

There are many, including many locally, who complain that Reed too often sides with President Trump and Republican leadership in the House. There is a flip side to that argument, however, and it is the work of the Problem Solvers Caucus and the important rules change it brokered last year.

Stewart raised awareness of the 9/11 first responders’ plight. For that he should be thanked. Reed and the Problem Solvers’ Caucus provided a means to rectify the problem. That should be remembered as well.