“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,” Stewart said. “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.”
Several congressional members were no-shows at Tuesday’s hearing to discuss the renewal of funds.
Stewart went on to say Congress lack of action is “an embarrassment to the country” and “a stain on this institution.”
“Jon is such an advocate for first responders. He is so passionate in what he does for us and for all first responders. Obviously, you can say he wears his emotions on his sleeves,” former 9/11 first responder Jake Lemonda said on FOX Business’ “The Evening Edit” Tuesday.
The Victim Compensation Fund was created for the first responders who went into the ash and rubble of Ground Zero right after the Twin Towers fell in 2001. Many of them became sick and have died in the years that followed.
Gerard Fitzgerald, the president of the Uniformed Firefighter Association of Greater New York and a 9/11 first responder, said they were given a five-year projected cost of medical benefits and funds are rapidly running out.
“Unfortunately, because of the amount of victims that have put in for that money, it’s running out quicker than we ever thought would happen,” he said. “We’re a full-- more than a year out from when it’s supposed to expire (in 2020) and they have cut the funding."
When asked if he is confident that Congress will fund the money, Lemonda said he is certain to never quit fighting for everyone who sacrificed their lives on that dreadful September day. “We will never forget our members, and we’ll never forget everybody else who responded that day and the days to follow,” he said.
FOX Business reached out to the offices of the members who sit on that subcommittee for civil right and civil liberties within the House Judiciary Committee. Two of the 15 members were not present for the entirety of the hearing. The absent Congressional members were Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa. Other members were seen coming in and out of hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill. The front row of empty chairs was visible because the full committee doesn’t meet until Wednesday.