Earlier this month, Jon Stewart appeared before a congressional subcommittee in full beard and full rant. The members of Congress were there to consider the reauthorization of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. He criticized those who were not at the hearing and accused them of “callous indifference and rank hypocrisy.” Let me explain why this tirade was unnecessary and inappropriate.
But before I do that, let me make clear that I support the reauthorization of the fund, and so did the members of the subcommittee. It passed unanimously. And let me also say that it is certainly appropriate to criticize Congress, especially this year when we seem to have a do-nothing Congress. Often they merely pass “message bills” designed to send a message but poorly written, which they never expect the Senate to consider. And the House leadership once again announced it would not pass a federal budget this year. Obviously, there are many things to criticize Congress for.
Jon Stewart complained that only 12 members of Congress were seated in the committee hearing room. That is because it was a subcommittee hearing where only 14 of the total 41 committee members were supposed to be in attendance. And the two members of Congress that were missing from that hearing were co-sponsors of the bill and voted for it.
Chris Jacobs, in an article in The Federalist, reminds us that members of Congress often have to hop back and forth from “as many as a half a dozen committee hearings and markups in a typical legislative workweek.” This is in addition to juggling floor votes, speeches, and meetings with staff and constituents. The absence of even two members is not due to “callous indifference” but the time constraints placed on a member of Congress.
Jon Stewart’s rant in Congress made for good theater, but it was unnecessary and inappropriate.