The Senate passed a bill yesterday guaranteeing permanent healthcare compensation for the families of 9/11 victims and first responders.
The Senate passed a bill yesterday that reauthorizes the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, ensuring that healthcare compensation is offered to survivors and first responders beyond its previously scheduled 2020 expiration. The expiration of the fund would have affected 95,000 first responders and victims, and the new bill has now moved to the desk of President Trump, where it is expected to be made official. Ex-Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who has long advocated for 9/11 survivors, delivered an emotional address soon after the bill was passed. “This has been the honor of my life to work with the men and women behind me,” said Stewart. “We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them,” he continued, flanked by New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with a group of first responders who joined Stewart in the fight to get the fund reinstated. “Today is that day that they can exhale. Unfortunately, the pain and suffering of what these heroes continue to go through are going to continue. There have been too many funerals, too many hospices, and these families deserve better. I’m hopeful that today begins the process of being able to heal without the burden of having to advocate.”
Jon Stewart: "We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them. And today is that day that they can exhale ...I'm hopeful that today begins the process of being able to heal without the burden of having to advocate." @tictoc pic.twitter.com/UWtUkL0CGX— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 23, 2019
The bill was passed with a 97-2 vote, with only Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee voting against the extension of the fund. "While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded," Paul wrote on Twitter, explaining his objection to the bill. "We have a nearly trillion-dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control." The vote came after Gillibrand and Schumer reached an agreement with Lee and Paul to bring up the bill with two amendments sponsored by the GOP senators. The bill in its current form extends the Victim Compensation Fund through 2092, essentially making it permanent. According to FOX News, the $7.4 billion funds has been depleted rapidly, and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70%. The passage of the bill comes a mere month after Stewart lambasted Congress for their "callous indifference" towards victims of the 2001 attack.
"We've tried in numerous occasions to have that conversation with them," Jon Stewart said of Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, who voted against the bill passed on Tuesday to fund the 9/11 victim compensation fund for decades.https://t.co/PMRlrQBXKz pic.twitter.com/ejke6TSbNi— New Day (@NewDay) July 24, 2019
“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process of what getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” said Stewart, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on reauthorizing the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. “Behind me, 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. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a shame on this institution.”
"They did their jobs...18 years later, do yours!"— ABC News (@ABC) July 23, 2019
In angry and impassioned remarks last month, Jon Stewart appealed to Congress to make the 9/11 victim compensation fund permanent. Today, the Senate passed a bill to do so, 97-2. https://t.co/hga6IefLJ3 pic.twitter.com/mxv6YMw5dm
The approved bill has been named “The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act”, after three NYPD and FDNY members who died from health complications caused by their work at Ground Zero. "I'm going to ask my team now to put down your swords and pick up your rakes and go home, and hopefully, we don't have to come back," victims' advocate John Feal told his fellow first responders at a news conference, according to NBC News. Senator Gillibrand echoed these thoughts in a statement to The New York Post, saying, "After this vote, the people in the gallery above us — these brave men and women who have suffered unbelievably — will not have to come here again." She added, “This should never have been a fight. It should never have taken this long to pass this bill and make it permanent. It should never have been a question.”