Comedian Jon Stewart tore into members of Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure that a victims’ compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks won’t run out of money — and for skipping a hearing devoted to that very crisis.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, delivered emotional testimony at that Capitol Hill hearing, meant to discuss a bill ensuring the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats in the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing room, an angry Stewart said “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to see a nearly deserted dais.
The sparse attendance by lawmakers was “an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution” of Congress, Stewart said, adding that the “disrespect” shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses “is utterly unacceptable.”
Lawmakers from both parties said they support the bill and were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., predicted the bill will pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant no disrespect as they moved in and out of the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill.
Stewart was unconvinced.
Pointing to rows of uniformed firefighters and police officers behind him, he said the hearing “should be flipped,” so that first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress “down here” in witness chairs answering their questions.
First and foremost, Stewart said, families want to know: “Why is this so damn hard and takes so damn long?”
The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing over Lower Manhattan. Fires burned for weeks. Thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection…
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