WASHINGTON ― Vice President Joe Biden turned to Jon Stewart and 9/11 responders Tuesday, enlisting the aid of the people who forced Congress to pass 9/11 health legislation in his cancer moonshot.
But first, Biden said thank you to Stewart, who used his platform and star power to help embarrass lawmakers into passing last year’s 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
“You’ve been amazing,” Biden told the comedian.
“You kind of threw yourself in front of a train, man, to make sure that people didn’t walk away,” Biden said in a meeting in his ceremonial office. “You had a profound impact on what happened in the Senate and the House, and I really mean it. I don’t think we would have been able to get the kind of long-term funding we got were it not for your steadfastness.”
Stewart demurred on the praise, pointing to the responders with him as the people who deserved thanks, but Biden insisted.
“I’ve been doing this job a long, long time. The only thing I know about more than most of you is how the Congress operates or doesn’t operate. It had a profound impact,” Biden said.
“We owe you big time, buddy,” Biden said. “We couldn’t [pass the bill]. We tried like hell. We could not get it done until you just put everything you had into it.”
Biden said he was grateful to Stewart for the spotlight his celebrity is bringing to Biden’s cause, and noted a connection to his late son, Beau, and the work that has been done studying cancers that have killed thousands of first responders.
Beau Biden, who died last year of brain cancer, served in Iraq as a major in the National Guard. Biden quoted from a book called The Burn Pits that traced Beau Biden’s path in Iraq for the year he served there, and found he was stationed near a number of massive incineration sites used to burn tons of toxic waste.
The book can’t prove it, and neither could Joe Biden. But the book suggests Beau Biden’s deadly cancer could be connected to the toxic trash he was exposed to in Iraq, just like the toxins of 9/11 are now linked to cancers killing first responders.
“Just like, Jon, you couldn’t prove that each of these guys who had cancer or came down with a respiratory disease was because of exactly what happened on 9/11 ― the presumption was it was because of the overwhelming circumstantial evidence,” Biden said, waving toward former New York City firefighters Ray Pfeiffer and Kenny Specht, both of whom have or are battling cancer.
The fate of Biden’s moon shot ― an ambitious bid to cure cancer, or at least make enormous strides in five years ― is not entirely clear in the Trump administration.
But the presence at Biden’s office of numerous military officials and the victors of the legislative battle to win 9/11 legislation suggested the vice president intended to keep pushing after he leaves office. And he told the military scientists in the room he wasn’t going away.
“Guys, I’m going to be the biggest pain in your neck as long as I live, until we figure out about these burn pits,” Biden said, noting that thousands of service members and firefighters have been exposed to such toxic situations.
“It’s not about my son,” Biden said. “It’s about so many people.”