Partisanship aside, Americans of all stripes should be able to agree that care for veterans and first responders should not be subjected to political games. Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart begged Congress on Capitol Hill Tuesday to put an end to such treatment of the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund, a cause he has long pushed for.
“Accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber. I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I am angry, and you should be too,” Stewart told the House Judiciary Committee.
The comedian took particular issue with the fact that some members of the committee either did not bother to show up or were seen coming and going as men and women testified to their suffering as a result of their rescue efforts during and after the 9/11 attacks.
“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” Stewart said, according to Fox Business. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.”
Only two members of the committee were absent the entire testimony – Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). Fox Business noted that the “front row of empty chairs was visible because the full committee doesn’t meet until Wednesday.”
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was created to aid the first responders who led the rescue effort on Ground Zero for several weeks and months after the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11, causing a host of permanent illnesses. CBS News provides some background on the fund:
Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010 … The act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. But a portion of the law — the Victim Compensation Fund — was only funded for five years, through the end of 2020. The fund aimed to provide necessary financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including a spate of cancer diagnoses, after the 2001 attacks.
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, ranging from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, to debilitating lung cancers.
Several members of the New York congressional delegation, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats, and GOP Rep. Peter King, have introduced the Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019 to reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund.
Speaking to Shepard Smith on Fox News later, Stewart did not buy the excuse that some lawmakers were giving as to why the chamber on Tuesday appeared to be so empty.
“They kept saying it’s a ‘sub-subcommittee.’ There’s still people on the sub-subcommittee that aren’t here,” he said. “Either 9/11 was a priority or it wasn’t. But, your deeds have to at some point match your tweets and your words. Today it didn’t.”
Earlier this year, Jon Stewart actually praised the Trump administration for paying the compensation fund at a quick and steady rate. However, as the fund’s 2020 deadline approaches, the money has nearly been depleted.