Former late night host Jon Stewart choked up as he slammed members of members of the House Judiciary Committee who were absent during the hearing on legislation reauthorizing the 9/11 victims compensation fund.
“As I sit here today, I cannot help but think what an incredible metaphot this room is for the entire process of getting health care and banefits for the 9/11 first responders,” said Stewart.
“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 and… no one,” said Stewart, speaking before a largely empty dais.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves but you won’t be,” said the comedian turned 9/11 first responders advocate.
“Today my House Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing on the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund,” said Rep. Steve Cohen noting that the hearing was held before before the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties and not the full committee. “Our 9/11 heroes & survivors should have the peace of mind knowing that this fund will be there to help them and their families as long as they need it.”
“All these empty chairs, that’s because it’s for the full committee. It’s not because of disrespect or lack of attention to you,” the Tennessee Democrat told Stewart and the assembled heroes of the World Trade Center attack.
The hearing came just hours before the full House was set to vote on a civil contempt resolution against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Stewart spoke alongside Luis Alvarez, a retired detective from the New York Police Department who has cancer linked to the 9/11 attacks, to which he responded.
“They did their jobs…18 years later, do yours!,” said Stewart, appealing to Congress to make 9/11 victim compensation fund permanent in angry and impassioned remarks.
“Less than 24 hours from now, I will be serving my 69th round of chemotherapy,” Alvarez said. “I should not be here with you, but you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else.”
The fund has faced recent financial problems, including a spike in the number of claims ahead of its December 2020 expiration date.
In February, Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya announced there was “insufficient funding” to “pay all current and projected claims at the same levels as under current policies and procedures” and said future claims would only be paid a fraction of their prior value.
Local, state and federal officials have rallied around the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which would provide funding for the victim fund through fiscal year 2090. The bill was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in October 2018, and reintroduced this year, but has since languished in the House.
When asked about the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., sidestepped the issue, saying he would have to look at the bill.
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