How Jon Stewart Became a Fierce Advocate for 9/11 Responders

“It’s Congress’s job to fund it properly and let these people live in peace,” he said at the time.

Mr. Stewart admonished Congress on Tuesday, saying it allowed the fund to run low and failed to secure enough money to pay benefits.

The victims and their families, he said, wanted to know why “this is so damn hard and takes so damn long.”

At a hearing of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Mr. Stewart urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow the fund to pay benefits for the next 70 years.

“Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension,” he said.

He also expressed disgust with what he viewed as poor attendance at the hearing, noting that although sick emergency personnel and their families had made the trip to Washington, most of the seats in front of them were empty.

“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,” Mr. Stewart said. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress.”

The subcommittee’s chair, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said the hearing appeared poorly attended only because of the room it was being held in.

The subcommittee’s top Republican member, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, told Mr. Stewart that lawmakers intended no disrespect, suggesting that they were moving in and out of the hearing, which is common in Congress.

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