Jon Stewart gave Congress an earful on Tuesday, blasting a House Judiciary subcommittee for its seeming indifference towards the plight of 9/11 first responders as he testified on their behalf for the extension of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The former Daily Show host has long been frustrated with the constant fights on Capitol Hill to provide additional funding to the victims’ fund, letting that frustration boil over during Tuesday’s hearing, which was attended by only five members.
“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,” Stewart bemoaned. “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. It is an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution."
Adding that members of the House should be embarrassed for themselves but won’t be, the comedian noted: "Accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”
After mentioning some of the ailing first responders who had traveled to Washington to speak at the hearing and highlighting the sacrifices hundreds made during the terror attacks, Stewart got extremely emotional, needing a few moments to compose himself. “I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I am angry, and you should be too, and they’re all angry as well,” he declared.
"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: Time,” Stewart exclaimed. “It's the one thing they're running out of."
Assailing the dealmaking in Congress that will cause funding bills to be tied to other pet projects and spending requests, Stewart applauded the first responders who have kept fighting to make sure the victims’ fund won’t run out.
“Thank god for all of these people who will not let it happen,” he emphasized. “They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility! 18 years later—do yours!”
Finishing on that note, the 9/11 first responders in the chambers immediately stood up and gave Stewart a standing ovation.