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Jon Stewart Gives Emotional Testimony For 9/11 First Responders

Jon Stewart lashed out at the House Judiciary Subcommittee, saying it was "shameful" nearly half of them failed to turn up to the hearing.

Former host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" Jon Stewart took a vastly different tone than his usual satirical shtick when he spoke Tuesday on Capitol Hill about the need to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The measure aims to provide health care benefits to first responders and others in the community with illnesses related to the 2001 terror attacks, but it's running short of money.

Jon Stewart testifies in front of the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on June 11, 2019 in Washington. Source: AAP Photos.

"I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is ... 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 ... shameful," said Stewart at the outset of his remarks.

A little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats.

Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010, over opposition from some Republicans who balked at its $US 7 billion price tag.

The act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. But a portion of the law — the Victim Compensation Fund — was only funded for five years, through the end of 2020.

READ MORE: 9/11 Anniversary: 16,000 First Responders Eligible For Pay-Out Over Mounting Toll

READ MORE: Sandra Sully Recalls The Night She Talked Australia Through 9/11

The fund aimed to provide necessary financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including a spate of cancer diagnoses, after the 2001 attacks.

Doctor Jacqueline Moline, Chair of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention at Hofstra's School of Medicine, testified before the panel that currently, more than 11,000 types of cancer have been reported since the attacks on 9/11, ranging from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, to debilitating lung cancers.

Jon Stewart testifies in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Photo: AAP

Several members of the New York congressional delegation, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats and GOP Rep. Peter King, have introduced the Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019 to reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund.

It also has the support of New York's two senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Stewart has long been a champion for the cause, first devoting an entire episode of "The Daily Show" to the political debate over the Zadroga Act back in 2010.

He's since become one of the most vocal advocates for 9/11 responders, repeatedly defending the right to health care coverage for those who responded and ran toward the falling towers.

Stewart was disgusted by the small number of members assembled for Tuesday's hearing, calling the showing an "embarrassment to this country" and a "stain on this institution."

"You should be ashamed of yourselves for not being here," he added. "Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber."

Stewart expressed concern that such legislation like the Never Forget Act would just be punted like a "political football" and attached to riders in massive budget bills.

Colour photograph of New York Firefighters amid the rubble of the World Trade Centre following the 9/11 attacks. Dated 2001. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

"Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension," Stewart admonished.

He also lambasted Congress for those that consider the measure a "New York" issue.

"More of these men and woman are going to get sick and they're going to die, and I'm awfully tired of hearing this is a 'New York issue.' Al-Qaeda didn't shout 'death to Tribeca.' They attacked America," Stewart remarked.

READ MORE: 9/11 Survivor Dies In Hotel Terror Attack

After a more than five-minute-long tirade against congressional inaction on the issue, the audience in the hearing room gave the comedian a standing ovation.

Stewart's testimony was not the first to bring members of Congress and the audience to its feet. Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective and 9/11 responder, also testified before the House panel.

He is set to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy Wednesday to treat the cancer he was diagnosed with after the World Trade Center fell.

"This fund isn't a ticket to paradise, it's to provide our families with care," said Alvarez.

"You all said you would never forget. Well, I'm here to make sure that you don't," Alvarez said to a room of loud applause.