He wasn’t there for the comedy.  He was there to support our brothers and sisters on Tuesday.

It was an emotional appeal to Congress by Stewart, 9/11 first responders and their advocates to make a victim compensation fund permanent.

And Stewart, the former “Daily Show” host, pulled no punches, calling out congress on “callous indifference and rank hypocrisy” in failing to renew the fund. 

“Why this bill isn’t unanimous consent and a stand-alone issue, is beyond my comprehension. And I’ve yet to hear a reasonable explanation as to why,” said Stewart, who also blasted lawmakers for failing to attend Tuesday’s hearing. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me a nearly empty Congress.”

Choking back tears, he demanded that the leaders of our nation step up and fully fund a program to support sick and dying 9/11 first responders and choking back tears.

“They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!” he shouted.

He reminded them it’s not a New York issue, it’s a national one.

“I’m awfully tired of hearing that it’s a 9/11 New York issue. Al-Qaeda didn’t shout death to Tribeca. They attacked America and these men and women … brought our country back,” he said.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will run out of money by December 2020, best case scenario.

 

There’s a new bill, which the House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Wednesday, that would permanently authorize funding for the program.

Four years ago, Stewart sat in the same seat making the same case.

 

But the money in the fund has dried up as the number of cancer cases continues to grow, and the 2015 compromise only added another 5 years of funding.

Stewart was also joined by the widow of a construction worker who responded at Ground Zero, clutching a photo of her late husband to her chest as she spoke.

 

The former talk show host’s testimony was the most viscious as he accused lawmakers of negligence and of treating first responders lobbying for more relief money “like children trick-or-treating, rather than the heroes they are and they will always be.”

“I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I’m angry, and you should be, too, and they’re all angry as well and they have every justification to be that way,” he said.

He then pointed to the room behind him of aging first responders who had made another trip to Washington to fight for health care funding.  It was backwards, he said.

“This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on this stage, Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and take so damn long.”

The room exploded in applause when he finished his remarks.

“I cried through all of it, most of us did,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., told Stewart.

After his comments, the Louisiana Republican predicted the bill would sail through the committee and pass nearly-unanimously through the House.

Whether or not it will pass the Senate is unclear, as it was held up by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, only to be passed as part of last-minute negotiations over the year-end spending deal in 2015.

Stewart put McConnell on notice.  He promised that advocates won’t allow a “certain someone” in the Senate to use the program as a “political football” in spending negotiations.

“Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time,” Stewart said at one point.

Before Stewart spoke, Congress heard Luis Alvarez, a retired New York City detective, who will go through his 69th round of chemotherapy due to complications from being at Ground Zero.

“We are not here for anything for ourselves,” said Alvarez. “I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero. We showed the world we would never back down and that we can all work together.”

Alvarez said he wasn’t there for himself, he was there so the victims who come after him are taken care of.

“My life isn’t worth more than the next responder to get cancer. This fund is not a ticket to paradise, it’s there to provide to our families when we aren’t there,” he said.