WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) – 9/11 first responders finally met with the man at the center of a heated and emotional battle to keep funding the Sept. 11 victims’ compensation fund.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell met with the retired police officers and firefighters weeks after comedian Jon Stewart and many ailing emergency workers criticized the Kentucky Republican and other lawmakers for not acting faster to approve the funding.

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“I’ve been to 181 funerals. I’m about to go to 182, so yeah it’s frustrating when you see a dysfunctional body of work who promises to fix yesterday’s problems today, maybe tomorrow,” John Feal, who also worked at the toxic pile left by the ruins of the World Trade Center said.

The advocates for permanent funding of the victims’ compensation program said they left the badge of former NYPD Det. Lou Alvarez with McConnell.

Alvarez is now in hospice and dying of cancer. Just days earlier, he stood with Stewart to testify on how thousands of first responders, Manhattan office workers, and even students have fallen ill and died of cancer due to their exposure to poisonous dust from the 2001 terror attack.

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Stewart has criticized McConnell and other congressional leaders for failing to ensure that the victims’ fund, set up after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, is replenished.

The $7 billion fund is being depleted and has cut benefit payments by up to 70 percent. A bill pending in Congress would ensure the fund can pay benefits for 70 years.

Feal and others in Washington on Tuesday said the majority leader hopes a bill would be on the senate floor for a vote by August.

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