After an emotional plea from comedian Jon Stewart went viral online on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to advance a bill that would extend the funding for the September 11th Victim's Compensation Fund for another 70 years.
The measure heads for a full House vote where it is likely to pass with overwhelming support. If it becomes law, funding for victims and 9/11 first responders will be made available through 2090.
Stewart blasted the committee on Tuesday in a speech that accused lawmakers of failing to make the health and well-being of 9/11 first responders a priority. The one-time host of The Daily Show also excoriated the congressmen and women who failed to attend yesterday's hearing on the bill that ensures benefits for the next 70 years. An angry and sometimes tearful Stewart called the hearing "an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution" of Congress during his tirade. Stewart also noted the "disrespect" shown to first responders by lawmakers was "utterly unacceptable."
Many of the first responders to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center suffered serious health issues, including some who developed respiratory and digestive-system ailments in the aftermath of the attacks that brought down the twin towers. A spike in cancer cases was also observed among 9/11 first responders in the years after the attacks.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the committee for passing the bill on the House, writing on Twitter that "'Never Forget' isn't a slogan, it's a promise."
Lawmakers who missed the hearing offered the excuse that they were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business.
Stewart did not appear to accept their excuse.
"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."
"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 emotional plea below:
Photo: Getty Images