Viral Photo Shows Mitch McConnell Walking Past A Smiling Jon Stewart Hours Before Passage of 9/11 Victim Bill

A photo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walking past a smiling Jon Stewart, formerly host of The Daily Show, on Capitol Hill, hours before the Senate voted to extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, has gone viral on social media.

"@McConnellPress walks past Jon Stewart at the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol. The Senate will be voting later today on HR 1327: Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act," Roll Call photojournalist Bill Clark wrote on Twitter, alongside the image taken on Tuesday.

The tweet has garnered 18.2 thousand likes and 3.7 thousand retweets since it was shared earlier this afternoon.

.@McConnellPress walks past Jon Stewart at the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol. The Senate will be voting later today on HR 1327: Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. pic.twitter.com/bZ0FaOhTSl

— Bill Clark (@billclarkphotos) July 23, 2019

In a statement to Newsweek, Clark confirmed that Stewart smiled directly at McConnell as he walked by but was unable to confirm whether the senator reacted. "All I saw was McConnell's back as he passed by," the photojournalist said. "I'm fairly sure McConnell saw Stewart, but I did not hear him say anything or react in any way."

Clark further explained the incident in a Roll Call article titled "Photo of the day: Stewart smiles at McConnell."

"I was standing in the Capitol with a few other photographers outside of the Senate Republicans' policy lunch for the expected arrival of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin," he wrote. "That's when Jon Stewart — a stalwart advocate for 9/11 first responders — happened to walk by."

Clark added: "Moments later, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell emerged from the Senate floor walking toward his office. I was hoping McConnell would stop to interact with Stewart, but he just walked by as Stewart stood there smiling."

According to the photojournalist, McConnell returned to the Senate floor moments after the interaction, prompting Stewart to approach him to thank him for "getting the 9/11 bill a vote in the Senate."

Later on Tuesday, the Senate approved legislation to permanently fund the compensation measure, effectively guaranteeing 9/11 survivors and first responders who suffered health issues their full benefit. The partisan measure was passed 97/2 and will now be put to President Donald Trump for a signature.

Stewart, one of the legislation's loudest advocates, has previously criticized McConnell for failing to prioritize the bill on numerous occasions. Following intense lobbying efforts by the comedian, as well as first responders, the House approved the bill earlier this month.

Stewart rebuked McConnell last month during a segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, after the Republican leader questioned why he was "all bent out of shape" over the Senate delaying a vote on the bill.

"No, no, Mitch McConnell, I am not bent out of shape, I'm in fine shape," Stewart said. "Well, I am out of shape, but not because of you. I'm bent out of shape for them, these are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great trillions-of-dollars war on terror. And they're currently still suffering and dying and still in terrible need."

At a press conference after the Senate vote, Stewart joined 9/11 first responders and lawmakers in hailing the passage of the bill.

"This has been the honor of my life, to work with the men and women behind me," the comedian said. "They lifted this 9/11 community on their shoulders and they carried them home, and I will always be so proud to have been associated with it. We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them."

John Stewart
Jon Stewart (C) hugs 911 first responder John Feal (R) as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (L) stands nearby after the U.S. Senate voted to renew permanent authorization of September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, on Capitol Hill July 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. A separate photo of Stewart smiling as Mitch McConnell walked past him in the Capitol on Tuesday, hours before the Senate voted to extend the fund, has gone viral. Mark Wilson/Getty