Comedian and social commentator Jon Stewart angrily addressed the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday over Congress' failure to provide for 9/11 first responders who were sickened by the toxins released by the attacks.
Stewart was appearing before Congress to plead for reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through the The Never Forget the Heroes Act, which was introduced to the House this year by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney. That bill would allow individuals to make claims until October 2089.
He spoke passionately of the men and women who responded to the attacks in as little as five seconds and worked tirelessly at first trying to rescue victims and then to recover remains so that the families of the dead would have a body or at least a piece of their loved ones to bury.
The former host of "The Daily Show" was particularly angered by the fact that a number of representatives on the committee failed to attend the hearing. "The sick and dying have brought themselves down here to speak," he said, adding that the disrespect shown by the absent representatives was "utterly unacceptable."
Stewart called out Congress for its "callous indifference and rank hypocrisy" when it came to providing for cancer-stricken 9/11 responders and their families. "I'm angry and you should be, too," he said. "There is not an empty chair up there that didn't tweet out 'Never Forget the Heroes of 9/11.' Well, here they are. And where are you?"
One of the 9/11 first responders who attended the hearing was retired NYPD Det. Luis Alvarez. The cancer-stricken bomb tech told the representatives that he would be returning to New York after the hearing for his 69th round of chemotherapy. "I should not be here with you, but you made me come," he said. "It is my goal to see you do the right thing for all 9/11 first responders."
Alvarez closed his remarks, echoing Stewart's words from the opening statement: "You all said you would never forget. I am here to see that you don't."
In his opening statement, Stewart slammed Congress for trying to make the needs of 9/11 first responders who are "sick and dying" a New York issue. "I'm tired of hearing that," he said. "Al Qaeda did not shout out death to Tribeca."
Stewart expressed bewilderment at why Congress will not provide for the 9/11 responders at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA. "Why this bill doesn't have unanimous consent, I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation."
He closed, telling the Committee, "They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs. Eighteen years later, do yours."