Jon Stewart took time away from his semi-retired life on a family farm in New Jersey to visit the nation's capitol and yell at Congress on Tuesday. The former The Daily Show host, was there to advocate for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which is running out of money and has needed to slash payouts to ailing first-responders and other survivors by more than half.
The fund was last re-authorized by Congress in 2015 after they set aside $7 billion to help cover costs associated with post-9/11 illnesses. Stewart, who has used his platform as host and comedian to advocate for 9/11 first responders, told the committee on Tuesday that it was his goal to see that Congress does "the right thing for all 9/11 responders.
"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," he said. "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. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those aren't here, but you won't be. Because accountability doesn't appear to be something that occurs in this chamber."
A little over half of the 14-member subcomittee members were there, most of which were Democrats. Congress first passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010, despite opposition from Republicans over its $7 billion cost. However, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was only funded for five years through the end of 2020. That fund allocated money for more specific financial support for the thousands of people who suffered serious medical issues after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"We don't want to be here," Stewart said during his speech, in which he occasionally broke down in tears. "Lou doesn't want to be here. None of these people want to be here. But they are, and they're not here for themselves, they're here to continue fighting for what's right."
You can watch Stewart's admonishment to Congress below: