Jon Stewart Blasts Lawmakers For Failing To Show Up At 9/11 Responders’ Congress Hearing

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Jon Stewart gave a powerful speech in front of Congress on Tuesday, when he advocated for 9/11 victims and first responders to have their compensation fund reauthorized.

The comedian lashed out at Washington D.C. lawmakers who failed to show up to the hearing, telling them they should be “ashamed” of themselves as he offered his testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Capitol Hill. An emotional Stewart sometimes broke down in tears as he spoke in favor of those affected by the 2001 terrorist attack, who are fighting to have the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund renewed, as reported by CBS News.

The bill provides health care benefits to first responders and victims with health complications related to the catastrophe, but only five out of the 14 subcommittee members showed up (most of them Democrats) to hear their appeal to have the fund injected with more money to support them for the next 70 years.

“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one… Shameful,” the former Daily Show host said, adding that the lawmakers’ failure to attend the hearing was “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution” that is Capitol Hill.

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As reported by The Daily Mail, the only members of Congress in attendance were House ​Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler​ of New York, Democratic Representatives Steve Cohen​ of Tennessee​, Mary Gay Scanlon​ of Pennsylvania​, and Jamie Raskin ​of Maryland, as well as Republican Representative Mike Johnson ​of Louisiana.

The original bill, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, was approved in 2010 and renewed after five years for another 90 years, but it is now running out of funding, according to BuzzFeed News. Many of the victims of the Al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001 are now suffering from health issues, including cancer. Several firefighters and first responders were present at the hearing in Washington, D.C. to fight for their peers’ access to appropriate medical care coverage.

Stewart, who has long been an advocate for those impacted by the attacks, said that he was “tired of hearing ‘this is a New York issue.'” His emotional speech earned a standing ovation from friends and relatives of the victims. Rep. Johnson stated that it wasn’t his colleagues’ intention to be disrespectful, and that he believed the bill would pass.