The House Judiciary Committee passes legislation permanently authorizing healthcare funds for 9/11 first responders who got sick in the aftermath of the attack.

Congressman Mike Johnson sat on the committee and says while the first responders fund has been well managed, it was time to guarantee those heroes who ran into the wreckage their benefits long term.

“We should not have the first responders and others effected be required to come to Congress every five years and put on the same case, so this will eliminate that now.”

Johnson says the hearing was the most emotional he’s ever sat through, and it brought up memories of his own firefighter father who was permanently disabled from a critical burn. He says the hearing was full of similarly tragic stories…

“What has come of it is more than 400 types of cancer and other ailments, lung and respiratory diseases, tragedies that have befallen the heroes that served us in those days.”

The issue grabbed national headlines after a fiery speech at a subcommittee hearing yesterday by comedian Jon Stewart, who blasted lawmakers for poor attendance as sick first responders testified, but Johnson says there was one issue…

“What he did not realize is, is that our subcommittee only has 14 members. He was looking at the two dozen empty chairs, suggesting or assume that members who were supposed to be there were not.”

The Washington Post reports only two of the members were not present for the hearing.