Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart made an impassioned plea for the reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund in Washington, D.C. this week. Testifying before a congressional panel on the behalf of 9/11 first responders, Stewart appealed for a bill to be passed that would reinstate benefits and health care for the next 70 years.
During an emotional opening statement, the comedian made several scathing criticisms of the institution's lack of respect for first responders, remarking that barely half of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties were present for the hearing.
"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," he said. "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."
"You should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be," he continued. "Because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber." Stewart went on to call the conduct of the subcommittee "an embarrassment to the country" and "a stain on this institution."
His comments earned him applause from the first responders who were present for the hearing. Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson tried to explain that lawmakers moving "in and out" of a hearing was quite normal.
Administrators at the Victim Compensation Fund, originally intended to run until 2020, have reported that a recent spike in claims have left them short of funding. The new proposed bill would move to extend funding until 2090.
"They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity," said Stewart, a long-time supporter and advocate of 9/11 first responders. "Eighteen years later, do yours."
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