WASHINGTON (AP) – Comedian Jon Stewart scolded Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure a victims' compensation set up after 9/11 attacks.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing at the age of 70 years. Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said "Sick and dying" first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing,
The sparse attendance by lawmakers was "An embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution."
Lawmakers from both parties said they are "disrespect" shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses amid the congressional business.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., Predicted the bill to pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant to be in and out of the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill.
Stewart was unconvinced.
Pointing to rows of uniformed firefighters and policing officers behind him, he said the hearing "should be flipped," so first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress "down here" in witness chairs answering their questions.
First and foremost, Stewart said, "What is this damn hard and takes so damn long?"
The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001
In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive system ailments that appeared almost
Victim Compensation Fund, which covers the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, is widely believed to be the source of more than 40,000 people. Pennsylvania, after the attacks. More than $ 5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $ 7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.
Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that nearly 18 years after the attacks, their first responders and their families had no assurance Fund does not want to run out of money. The Justice Department said in its inauguration in February that it is about to be reduced to 70 percent.
"The plain fact is that we are expending our money, and there are many more Claims than anticipated, "said Rupa Bhattacharyya, the fund's special master.
Stewart called that shameful.
"Your indifference is costing these men and women's most valuable commodity: time," he told lawmakers. "It's one thing they're running out of."
Firefighters, police and other first responders "did their jobs with courage, tenacity and humility," Stewart added. [Eighteenyearslaterdoyours"
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, whose district includes the World Trade Center site, said a 70% cut – or any cut – in compensation to victims of 9/11" is simply intolerable, and Congress must not allow it. "
Just as Americans" stood together as a nation in the days following September 11, 2001, and just as we stood together in 2010 and 2015 to authorize and fund these vital programs We need them now, "Nadler said.