Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress over September 11 victims fund

Entertainer and activist Jon Stewart

Entertainer and activist Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart accused Congress of "ignoring" first responders whose health has been impacted by the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks. "With courage, grace, tenacity, humility", he said, tearing up and dropping his pen onto the desk.

"I'm awfully exhausted of hearing that it's a 9/11 NY issue. Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America".

"It's an embarrassment to the country, and it is a stain on this institution", said Stewart.

We don't hear much anymore from Jon Stewart, the former Daily Show host whose regular "eviscerations" of deserving targets were once the subject of so many blog posts.

Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that almost 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money. That has set up a fight every five years to get Congress to renew the program. "That's not true. And we will respond, and we will see that it's funded". The 2015 compromise only added an additional 5 years of funding.

"None of these people want to be here", Stewart said referring to the survivors.

Retired FDNY Lieutenant and 9/11 responder Michael O'Connelll (left) FealGood Foundation co-founder John Feal (center right) and Jon Stewart speak to retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez.

"I'm pretty sure what's going to happen five years from now, more of these men and women are going to get sick and they are going to die and I am awfully exhausted of hearing that it's a 9/11 NY issue", Stewart said.

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The comedian wasn't laughing at all, deeming himself "angry" over low attendance by the House Judiciary Committee, during an appeal to pass a bill reauthorizing the VCF to provide benefits and health care to injured and sickened firefighters, first responders and other survivors of the 2001 terrorist attack for the next 70 years.

Stewart, who seemed at tears at points, said the men and women "responded in five seconds - they did their jobs".

The room erupted in applause when he finished his remarks. "I cried through most of this, a lot of us did". Why this bill isn't unanimous consent and a stand-alone issue is beyond my comprehension.

The proposal's fate in the Senate is unclear.

"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time, it's the one thing they're running out of".

That's what those Ground Zero workers came to talk to Congress about. "We showed the world we would never back down and that we can all work together".

More than 150 firefighters who responded to the September 11 attacks have died after the fact from health complications.

"Less than 24 hours from now, I will be serving my 69th round of chemotherapy", Alvarez said. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., ended the hearing by assuring the room that "we will get this done as quickly as possible, and I do think we will get this done".

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