Jon Stewart berates Congress for empty chairs at hearing for 9/11 first responders

Comedian Jon Stewart blasted Congress at a Tuesday hearing on reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

“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,” said Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 first responders and victims.

“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.”

The former host of “The Daily Show” on Viacom’s VIA, +0.77% Comedy Central cable channel also delivered the following zinger:

Stewart previously lobbied Congress in February on this issue, asking lawmakers at that time to ensure that the 9/11 compensation fund does not run out of money.

His comments on Tuesday came at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Members of this body pushed back after he complained that lawmakers were not in their seats in the hearing room.

“Our attendance was pretty good,” said Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, the subcommittee’s chairman. “All these empty chairs, that’s because it’s for the full committee. It’s not because of disrespect or lack of attention to you. That’s not true. We will respond, and we will see that this is funded.”

In a similar vein, Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, the ranking member, said: “I would not interpret some of the empty chairs as indifference. By virtue of its jurisdiction, this is a subcommittee of House Judiciary. If it was the full committee, you’d have many more members here.”

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