Former late night host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart spoke on behalf of 9/11 first responders on Tuesday on Capitol Hill during the hearing for reauthorizing the 9/11 victim compensation fund.
The fund provides health care benefits to first responders and those that have become ill in connection with the 2001 terrorist attack. However, the fund is becoming depleted and Jon is using his voice to stand up for the first responders who are dying from their illnesses.
While speaking to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Jon let them have it for not caring enough to show up, and became emotional during some points of his speech.
“As I sit here today I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting healthcare 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,” Jon began. “Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”
He continued, “We don’t want to be here, Lou doesn’t want to be here, none of these people want to be here but they are and they’re not here for themselves, they’re here to continue fighting for what’s right.”
Jon went on to give examples of the first responders that took the time to be there, calling the disrespect of the Congress “utterly unacceptable.”
The the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is a part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that Congress passed in 2010, which provides health monitoring and financial aid to the first responders, volunteers, and survivors of the September 11 attacks. The bill was reauthorized in 2015, with coverage extended to 2090.
However, the fund which was created to compensate the victims of the attack in exchange for their agreement not to sue the airline corporations involved. In Feb. 2109, the fund indicated that there was insufficient funding to pay current and projected claims at the levels paid before and that future awards would be reduced.
A New Yorker himself, Jon has been an advocate of the cause from the beginning in 2010 when the Act was passed.
“Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension,” Jon added. “More of these men and woman are going to get sick and they’re going to die, and I’m awfully tired of hearing this is a ‘New York issue.’ Al-Qaeda didn’t shout ‘death to Tribeca.’ They attacked America,” Stewart remarked.
Jon received hugs and a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech.