The former Daily Show host was on Capitol Hill urging Congress to pass a bill funding the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund past 2020, The New York Post reports. "And in front of me, a almost empty Congress".
The sparse attendance by lawmakers was "an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution" of Congress, Stewart said during the hearing, adding the "disrespect" shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses, "is utterly unacceptable". They did their jobs [with] courage, grace, tenacity, humility.
"Eighteen years later, do yours!"
"I'm awfully exhausted of hearing that it's a 9/11 NY issue".
"Al-Qaida didn't shout 'death to Tribeca, '" he said. His voice shaking, he continued, "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one".
Stewart was in the same position four years ago, but the money in the fund has dried up as the number of cancer cases continues to grow. The act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years.
"You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else".
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". Alvarez told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that, "You all said you would never forget".
"I can't help what think what an incredible metaphor this room is. a filled room of 9/11 first responders and front on me, a almost empty Congress. These men and women should be up on this stage, Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and take so damn long". "I cried through most of this, a lot of us did".
"Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension", Stewart admonished.
The proposal's fate in the Senate is unclear.
"More of these men and woman are going to get sick and they're going to die, and I'm awfully exhausted of hearing this is a 'New York issue.' Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America", Stewart remarked. Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective and 9/11 responder, also testified before the House panel.
"This fund isn't a ticket to paradise, it's to provide our families with care", said Alvarez.