Stewart testified before the House judiciary committee on Tuesday alongside first responders and victims, but only a handful of lawmakers appeared at the hearing, prompting a visibly angry Stewart to condemn their treatment of survivors.
An outspoken advocate for 9/11 first responders, Stewart said the "callous indifference and rank hypocrisy" of Congress members who once tweeted "Never Forget 9/11" is robbing the responders of their "most valuable commodity: Time, the one thing they're running out of".
Stewart also shamed Congress for its "disrespect" of the first responders, drawing a standing ovation after finishing a fiery speech by saying, "They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility". His voice shaking, he continued, "Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one".
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".
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Stewart told lawmakers it took only five seconds for first responders in NY to arrive at the scene of the terrorist attacks and that hundreds "died in an instant".
Shortly before the hearing, Stewart was given the turnout coat of FDNY officer Ray Pfeifer, who died from a 9/11-related cancer two years ago.
Stewart, who often grew emotional in his remarks, has repeatedly traveled to Washington with 9/11 victims and first responders to lobby for legislation to codify the health benefits into law.
In a simple, but passionate testimony, veteran and retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez urged lawmakers to reauthorize funding for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Alvarez told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that, "You all said you would never forget. 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". "Eighteen years later, do yours!" he shouted.
Stewart's rant came on the heels of testimony from Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective who had responded to the attacks on September 11, 2001. "If it's any comfort to you all, we know this bill is going to pass with an overwhelming landslide majority of the House, maybe unanimous". "This fund is not a ticket to paradise", said Alvarez, who was scheduled to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy the next day. "I should not be here with you, but you made me come".