US Network Pool via ABC News Videosource - Strictly no Archive Resale / Authorized re-use by AP’s broadcast and digital output only
Washington, DC - 11 June 2019
1. SOUNDBITE (English) Jon Stewart/Comedian: +++SOT PARTIALLY COVERED WITH BROLL+++
"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 is a stain on this institution."
2. Cutaway of first responders
3. Pan right to empty seats on dais
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Jon Stewart/Comedian: +++SOT PARTIALLY COVERED WITH BROLL+++
"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity - time. It's one thing they're running out of. This should be flipped. This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on that stage and Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard, and takes so damn long."
5. Mid of first responders in audience
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Luis Alvarez, Retired NYPD Detective, 9/11 Responder
"I should not be here with you, but you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else because of when they get sick they die."
Comedian Jon Stewart is scolding Congress for failing to ensure that a victims' compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks never runs out of money.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend Tuesday's hearing on a bill that would ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years.
Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said "sick and dying" first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.
He called the lack of attendance "an embarrassment to the country and a stain on the institution" of Congress.
Lawmakers said they support the bill and were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business.
More than 40,000 people have applied to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks.
More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.
Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that nearly 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money.
Retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez told lawmakers that he was about to receive his 69th chemotherapy treatment for cancer, but he showed up to speak at the hearing on behalf of others.
"You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me, are valued less than anyone else because of when they get sick, they die."
The Justice Department said in February that the fund is being depleted and that benefit payments are being cut by up to 70 percent.
House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat whose district includes the World Trade Center site, said a 70-percent cut - or any cut - in compensation to victims of 9/11 "is simply intolerable, and Congress must not allow it."