Former The Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart has launched an emotional appeal to US Congress, urging politicians to continue funding the healthcare costs of 9/11 first responders. More accurately, he delivered his brutal address to the politicians who didn’t turn up to the committee hearing.

Stewart appeared before a House Judiciary subcommittee yesterday during its hearing on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides for the healthcare costs of first responders who were injured during rescue efforts or suffered severe health issues after exposure to harmful rubble.

Advocates, including Stewart, have long argued the VCF is necessary given America’s lack of universal health care and the severity of the illnesses caused by exposure to Ground Zero, including cancer and respiratory damage. However, it was revealed in Februarythe US government is planning to slash payouts from the VCF by an average of 50% due to a lack of government funding. As it stands, the VCF is set to expire in 2020.

The latest hearing, attended by first responders and advocates alike, was meant to be an opportunity for VCF recipients to urge politicians to take action. Barely half of the 14-member committee turned up, according to CBS News.

At times becoming visibly emotional, Stewart called the sight “shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution.” 

“There is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out ‘never forget the heroes of 9/11. Never forget their bravery. Never forget what they did, what they gave to their country,'” Stewart added.

Well, here they are. And where are [the members of Congress]? And it would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign, but it’s not. Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. The one thing they’re running out of.

Stewart turned his ire to the fact America, one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, refuses to provide health care to its citizens.

“No American in this country should face financial ruin because of a health issue. Certainly, 9/11 first responders shouldn’t have to decide whether to live, or to have a place to live,” he said.

It is yet to be seen of US lawmakers move to reauthorise the VCF, but you can watch Stewart’s full address below:

Source: CBS News
Image: Zach Gibson / Getty Images