When Jon Stewart attended Tuesday's congressional hearing on a bill to ensure that the 9/11 victims' compensation fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years, he noticed something: rows of empty chairs where lawmakers should have been sitting. "I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to—behind me a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress," he said, per NBC News. "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak, to no one. Shameful." The bill would reauthorize the fund, which is currently running short on money, per CBS News. Just over half of the 14 members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee were in attendance.
Stewart, a longtime activist for 9/11 responders, did not hold back, at times breaking down in tears or shouting as he accused lawmakers of "indifference" and of "ignoring" responders who have been diagnosed with cancer and respiratory diseases in the wake of the attacks. "They responded (to the 9/11 attacks) in 5 seconds. They did their jobs, with courage, grace, tenacity, humility ... 18 years later, do yours," he continued. "You should be ashamed of yourselves for not being here. Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber." He added that though Congress had pledged never to forget the 9/11 heroes, it has been dragging its feet in terms of providing funding for medical care. After he spoke, he was given a standing ovation by the audience. (Another thing Stewart cares about: goats.)