"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 in his statement. His voice shaking, he continued, "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one".
In an emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Stewart at times choked up, shouting at lawmakers and calling them "shameful". "Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber".
"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time", he said later on.
The hearing is on a bill that would ensure funding for health benefits for the responders for the next 70 years.
His bigger message: Give the first responders full coverage care and stop how often them have to come to Capitol Hill to ask for it. More than $5 billion USA in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion USA fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.
More than 40,000 people have applied to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Penn., after the attacks.
"I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic", said Stewart, the former host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.More news: Golovkin returns to ring with fourth-round knockout of Rolls
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"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. "With courage, grace, tenacity, humility", before adding, "Eighteen years later, do yours". "Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America". "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".
In recent years, more and more 9/11 first responders have been diagnosed with illnesses that have been linked to their participation in rescue and recovery efforts following the September 11 attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I cried through all of it, most of us did", Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., told Stewart.
In a simple, but passionate testimony, veteran and retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez urged lawmakers to reauthorize funding for victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that almost 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money. "This fund is not a ticket to paradise, it's there to provide to our families when we aren't there", he said.
"Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension", Stewart admonished.