Jon Stewart told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that the lack of action on dwindling funding for 9/11 first responders by the U.S. government is “shameful” and putting lives at risk.
Stewart urged the House Judiciary Committee to make the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) permanent before it’s too late for some survivors.
“Your indifference costs these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of,” he said.
“It 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.”
The house is expected to vote on the Never Forget the Heroes Act legislation on Wednesday, which would extend funding past 2020 if passed. In February, the VCF announced that it was running out of money and that the remaining funds would not be able to support any further claims.
WATCH: Emotional Jon Stewart describes difficulties faced by 9/11 first responders
The comedian and former Daily Show host has been a champion in the fight to compensate the police officers, firefighters, paramedics and volunteers who developed cancer and other health issues following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Many worked around the clock after the towers collapsed, searching for victims in the rubble while inhaling deadly toxins. Hundreds of people died as a result of cancers and other diseases stemming from their efforts and many more continue to grapple with life-threatening illnesses.
WATCH: Jon Stewart breaks down in front of U.S. lawmakers
Stewart was emotional as he described the plight of the first responders, such as the late FDNY firefighter Ray Pfeifer.
“I used to get so angry at the latest injustice done to these men and women. 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 always will be,” he said.
“Ray would say, ‘Calm down Jonny, calm down, I got all the cards I need.’ And he would tap his pocket…”
Stewart, choked with emotion, leaned back in his chair and paused for several seconds before speaking again.
“… Where he kept prayer cards for 343 firefighters.”
WATCH: Jon Stewart to Congress on 9/11 funds – ‘Why is this so damn hard?’
Stewart has been increasingly vocal on Capitol Hill over the years, demanding the government keep funding the VCF and provide health care to survivors.
He pointed out that there wasn’t a lawmaker at the hearing in Washington on Tuesday who failed to tweet condolences for the “heroes of 9/11.”
“I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I’m angry and you should be too,” he said.
“And they’re all angry as well. They have every justification to be that way.”