WATCH: Jon Stewart says Congress ‘should be ashamed’ over inaction on helping 9/11 first responders

I want to thank Mr. Collins, Mr. Naylor for putting this together, but 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 911 first responders has come to. Behind me a filled room of 911 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. It’s shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution and you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber. We don’t want to be here. Louis doesn’t want to be here, none of these people want to be here. But they are and they’re not here for themselves – they’re here to continue fighting… …for what’s right. Lou’s gonna go back for a 69th chemo the great Ray Pfeifer would come down here, his body riddled with cancer and pain, where he couldn’t walk and the disrespect shown to him and to the other lobbyists on this bill… … is utterly unacceptable. You know, I used to get, I would be so angry at the latest injustice that’s done to these men and women and You know another business card thrown our way as a way of shooing us away like Children trick-or-treating rather than the heroes that they are and will always be Ray would say calm down Johnny calm down. I got all the cards I need and he would tap his pocket where he kept the prayer cards. 343 firefighters The official FDNY response time to 911 was five seconds. Five seconds. That’s how long it took for FDNY for NYPD for Port Authority for EMS to Respond to an urgent need from the public five seconds Hundreds died in an instant Thousands more poured in To continue to fight for their brothers and sisters The breathing problem started almost immediately and they were told they weren’t sick they were crazy and Then as the illnesses got worse and things became more apparent. Well, okay, you’re sick, but it’s not from the pile And then when the science became irrefutable Okay, it’s the pile But this is a New York issue I don’t know if we have the money And 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 There is not a Person here. 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 this country. Well here they are And where are they 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 This should be flipped this hearing should be flipped these men and women should be up on that stage and Congress should be down here answering their questions as To why this is so damn hard and takes so damn long and Why no matter what they get? Something’s always pulled back and they got to come back Mr. Johnson you made a point earlier and it was one that we have heard over and over again in these halls and I Couldn’t help but to answer to it, which was he said look You know, you guys are obviously heroes and 9/11 was a big deal But you know, we have a lot of stuff here to do and you know we got to make sure there’s money for a variety of Disasters hurricanes and tornadoes but this wasn’t a hurricane and this wasn’t a tornado. And by the way, that’s your job anyway We can’t fund these programs You can setting aside that 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 And the idea that you can only give them five more years of the VCF because you’re not quite sure What’s gonna happen five years from now? Well, I can tell you I’m pretty sure what’s gonna happen five years from now More of these men and women are gonna get sick and they are going to die And I am 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 and their response to it is what brought our country back it’s what gave a reeling nation a solid foundation to stand back upon to remind us of why this Country is great of why this country is worth fighting for and you are ignoring them And you can end it tomorrow Why this bill isn’t unanimous consent and a standalone issue is beyond my comprehension and I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for why it’ll get stuck in some transportation bill or some Appropriations bill and get sent over to the Senate where a certain someone from the Senate will use it as a political football to get themselves maybe another new import tax on petroleum because that’s what happened to us in 2015 and We won’t allow it to happen again Thank God for people like John field Thank God for people like ray fight for thank God for all of these people who will not let it happen They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility 18 years later, DO YOURS! Thank you You

Maurice Vega

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