Comedian Jon Stewart assails Congress for ignoring 9/11 first responders fund

Jon Stewart First Responders Testify Before Congress On 9/11 Victim Compensation Funding

As I sit here today I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting healthcare and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to.

In his emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Tuesday, Stewart skewered members of Congress, at times breaking down in tears, shouting at the lawmakers for their lack of concern for the VCF, calling them "shameful".

House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat whose district includes the World Trade Center site, said a 70 per cent cut - or any cut - in compensation to victims of 9/11 "is simply intolerable, and Congress must not allow it". Stewart expressed concern that such legislation like the Never Forget Act would just be punted like a "political football" and attached to riders in massive budget bills. The $7.3 billion fund has paid about $5 billion to roughly 21,000 claimants.

Pfeifer was a 9/11 firefighter who died in 2017 of a 9/11-related cancer.

The sparse attendance by lawmakers was "an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution" of Congress, Stewart said, adding that the "disrespect" shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses "is utterly unacceptable". And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those who aren't here, but you won't be. The legislation has been pushed for by NY politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak, and no one-shameful. He also lambasted Congress for those that consider the measure a "New York" issue. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) listens during a news conference February 25, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, Stewart slammed Congress for largely failing to show up to a hearing with 9/11 first responders.


But his testimony was the most searing and visceral of the morning, as he accused lawmakers of negligence and of treating first responders lobbying for more relief money "like children trick-or-treating, rather than the heroes they are and they will always be".

After a almost five-minute-long tirade against congresssional inaction on the issue, the audience in the hearing room gave the comedian a standing ovation.

"Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension", Stewart admonished.

Luis Alvarez, a retired bomb-squad detective for the New York Police Department, told the committee that he has cancer because of the fallout of the attacks. "This fund is not a ticket to paradise", said Alvarez, who was scheduled to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy the next day. Never forget their bravery. "I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I am angry, and you should be too".

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