Jon Stewart has delivered a devastating rebuke on Congress and dealing with the benefits to first-aiders and victims of 9/11, telling US lawmakers that their "shameful" inaction is "an embarrassment to the country."
Stewart, the comedian and former presenter of The Daily Show, was a staunch advocate of legislation providing for federal funding for the medical treatment of survivors of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Stewart said on Tuesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee along with first responders and victims, but only a handful of lawmakers appeared at the hearing, prompting a visibly angry Stewart to condemn the treatment of survivors.
"Sitting here today, I can not help but wonder what an incredible metaphor this room represents for the entire process that first responders came to receiving health and welfare benefits on September 11," said Stewart. "Behind me a crowded room with first responders from 11 September and before me an almost empty congress."
"Shameful," he said. "It's an embarrassment to the country and a blemish for this institution, you should be ashamed of those who are not here, but you will not be, because responsibility is apparently nothing that happens in this chamber."
Earlier this year, the US government cut payments to the sick and dying by more than half, after US officials said the September 11 victims' compensation fund ran out of money,
Those who had health problems or discovered illnesses at a later stage saw even greater cuts in health benefits. More than 20,000 people have suffered or died of cancer, respiratory problems, and other ailments because of trauma on September 11.
Stewart told lawmakers that New Yorkers' first responders needed only five seconds to arrive at the scene of the terrorist attacks and that hundreds died "in a moment."
"There is not a human being here, there is no free chair on this stage that has not tweeted," Never forget the heroes of September 11th, "he said, citing congressional members marking that day each year. "Never forget your courage, never forget what you did, what you gave this country."
Recalling the lack of urgency on Capitol Hill legislators, Stewart said, "It would be one thing if their stubborn indifference and their high hypocrisy were harmless, but that's not the case."
"Their indifference has cost these men and women the most valuable asset – time. It's the only thing that sets them off … This hearing should be turned around. These men and women should be on this stage, and Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so difficult and so damned long. "
Stewart, who often became emotional in his remarks, repeatedly traveled to Washington with victims of 9/11 and campaigned for laws to translate health benefits into law. Congress approved $ 7.3 billion in 2015 to meet claims by the end of 2020, but funding for 20,000 program participants is quickly used up.
Data released by the 9/11 fund in January showed a 235% increase in deaths compared to year-end 2015. The number of people with cancer and the number of eligible applications has also increased.
Stewart also targeted those who dismissed the September 11 funding as a "New York problem."
"Al Qaeda did not kill Tribeca," he said. "They attacked America.
"I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I'm angry and you should be too," added Stewart, who received a standing ovation at the end of his statement.
"They answered in five seconds. They did their job [with] Courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours. "