Jon Stewart tears into Congress for not funding medical care for 9/11 first responders

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Jon Stewart, the former host of “The Daily Show, took to Congress on Tuesday to tear into Congress for not funding the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund permanently. 

The fund is to provide medical care for first responders that have become sick from toxic fumes and smoke that were present at the site in the days and weeks that followed.

Many workers have already died from illnesses that have been attributed to Ground Zero.

Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Chair of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention at Hofstra’s School of Medicine, testified before the panel that currently, more than 11,000 types of cancer have been reported since the attacks on 9/11.

One main point that drew Stewart’s ire was the majority of the seats for House Judiciary Committee members were sitting empty. 

“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. Behind me, a room full of first responders and in front of me an empty Congress.”

Retired NYPD detective and 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez, left, and Jon Stewart, right are sworn in during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by Zach Gibson)

In his emotion testimony, he called Congress “shameful” and “an embarrassment to this country.”

Back in 2010, Congress passed the James Zadroga Act in 2010, despite some Republican objections over the $7 billion cost.

The act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. However, the fund for responders medical care was only extended for another five years. It is set to expire at the end of 2020. 

Stewart has long been a champion of the first responders right to medical care. In 2010, he devoted an entire episode of “The Daily Show” to the Zadroga Act and the debate surrounding it. 

He was disgusted by the many empty chairs in the committee.

“There’s not an empty chair on that stage that did not tweet out ‘Never Forget the Heroes of 9/11… well here they are! And where are they? Your indifference costs these men and women their most valuable commodity: time.”

Stewart also attacked Congress for not pushing the bill through with ease.

“Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension,” he said in dismay.

FealGood Foundation co-founder John Feal hugs Jon Stewart during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

At the end of his testimony, Stewart was given a standing ovation by the audience of first responders behind him.

Another area of moving testimony was from Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective and first responder.

He is set to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy on Wednesday.

“Yes, you heard me correctly. My 69th round,” he said back to the committee. 

Alvarez went on to plead with the committee that the money is being used for health care, not a “ticket to paradise.”

“You all said you would never forget. Well, I’m here to make sure you won’t.”

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