Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol, Jon Stewart, the recently retired host of The Daily Show, unloaded on Congress for their seeming indifference to the plight of 9/11 first responders who have suffered injury or illness because of their acts of valor on September 11th, 2001.
Stewart was in Washington with a group of 9/11 workers, lobbying Congress to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which is set to expire in a month, potentially eliminating critical health programs that benefit more than 33,000 emergency workers who sacrificed their well-being to rescue others on September 11th, 2001.
Stewart apologized to the rescue workers, saying he was embarrassed that their presence in Washington was even necessary. Stewart lashed out at Congress’ insanity and spoke passionately, as he argued:
I’m embarrassed for our country. I’m embarrassed for New York, I’m embarrassed that you, after serving so selflessly with such heroism, have to come down here and convince people to do what’s right for the illnesses and difficulties that you suffered because of your heroism and because of your selflessness.
As he concluded his remarks, he implicitly slammed Congress, by adding:
Nobody had to lobby you to rush to those towers that day.
An estimated 130 firefighters and 85 law enforcement officers have died from illnesses associated with exposure to dust and toxins at Ground Zero, according to the group Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, an organization lobbying on behalf of extending the legislation.
Extending the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act should be bi-partisan and uncontroversial. The nation owes these heroes the health care they deserve, for putting themselves in harm’s way in a time of crisis, to help others. The organization plans to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of Congress this week. The rescue workers have already done their part. Now it is incumbent upon Congress to extend funding for their health care coverage.
Jon Stewart is right. It is a national embarrassment that Congress needs to be pressured into doing the right thing. The Act should be extended on a unanimous vote, without the need for anybody to remind members of Congress that providing health care for 9/11 rescue workers is the right thing to do.