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Jon Stewart Rips Lawmakers for Not Attending 9/11 Victims Fund Hearing

Jon Stewart Rips Lawmakers for Not Attending 9/11 Victims Fund Hearing

"As I sit here today, I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process of getting healthcare and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to", he said.

Comedian and former host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" Jon Stewart took a vastly different tone than his usual satirical schtick when he spoke on Capitol Hill about the need to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), a measure that aims to provide health care benefits to first responders from the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

First he criticized the "nearly empty" side of the room where lawmakers Saturday. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders. "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.shameful", said Stewart at the outset of his remarks. "You should be ashamed of yourselves".

The fund, originally approved for five years in 2010, provides medical treatment for emergency responders sickened by toxic dust inhaled at the World Trade Center site in NY in the days following the attack. More than $5 billion U.S. in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion United States fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.

New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation in February to fund the program permanently. "I cried through most of this, a lot of us did".

He accused members of Congress of betraying first responders by failing to back up their public statements with real legislative action.

"None of these people want to be here", Stewart said referring to the survivors.

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"Well, here they are!" "Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time".

But his testimony was the most searing and visceral of the morning, as he accused lawmakers of negligence and of treating first responders lobbying for more relief money "like children trick-or-treating, rather than the heroes they are and they will always be".

"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. It is there to provide for our families when we can't - nothing more. "When it happens then we'll believe it, but trust me its not going to be a celebration, it's just going to be a sigh".

He warned what is to happen if they didn't: "More of these men and women are going to get sick and they're going to die", he said, adding, "And I'm awfully exhausted of hearing this is a 'New York issue".

Stewart also shamed Congress for its "disrespect" of the first responders, drawing a standing ovation after finishing a fiery speech by saying, "They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility".

Shortly before the hearing, Stewart was given the turnout coat of FDNY officer Ray Pfeifer, who died from a 9/11-related cancer two years ago.