Jon Stewart today scolded Congress for failing to ensure that a victims’ compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks never runs out of money.
A longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, Stewart angrily blasted lawmakers for failing to even show up for today’s hearing on a bill that would ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years.
“Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity — time! It’s the one thing they’re running out of. They responded (to the 9/11 attacks) in 5 seconds. They did their jobs, with courage, grace, tenacity, humility … 18 years later, do yours!
I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I am angry … and they’re angry as well.
I’m awfully tired of hearing it’s 9/11, a New York issue. Al Qaeda didn’t shout death to Tribeca,” he said, referring to a neighborhood in Manhattan. “They attacked America. And these men and women and their response to it is what brought our country back. You are ignoring them.”
Pointing to rows of empty seats at the House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said the “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.
Congress provided the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund with $7.4 billion to cover claims through December 2020. But as of February of this year, $5 billion has already been given to more than 20,000 survivors who’ve been stricken with cancer and respiratory diseases.
“I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process 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. It’s shameful.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., appeared to respond to Stewart’s remarks later in the hearing, according to The Hill.
“All these empty chairs that’s because it’s for the full committee, not because it’s disrespect or lack of attention to you.”
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., predicted the bill will pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant no disrespect as they came and went from the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill.
(Photo, screen grab; via NBC News)