After months of contentious debate and speaking directly with first responders, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday that ensured the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund for those affected by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks will never run out of money.
With a 97-2 vote, lawmakers sent the bipartisan bill named “The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” to President Donald Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it. The bill had previously passed in the House with a 402-12 vote.
“The vote today is a win for our country and the heroes and survivors who were there for us,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), the chief sponsor of the House bill.
In February, it was announced by September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya that the fund had received over 19,000 compensation forms from 2011 to 2016 and almost 20,000 more from 2016 to 2018, due to an increase of serious illness.
From 2001 until 2004, the original fund had distributed more than $7 billion to assist the families of over 2,880 people who died on September 11, 2001, and 2,680 individuals who were injured on that day, according to the Justice Department.
The fund was reactivated by Congress in 2011 and extended for five additional years in 2015, providing $7.4 billion to assist thousands of others. Until the passage of the bill Tuesday, the fund was set to stop accepting new claims in December of 2020. The new bill extends the expiration date to 2090. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will cost an estimated $10 billion throughout the next decade.
After the vote, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, “Today is not a celebration. It’s a deep sigh of relief.”
Jon Stewart, who has been an outspoken supporter and advocate for the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund, was also in attendance for the passage of the bill.
“This has been the honor of my life,” Stewart said. “We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country. Today, they can exhale.”
He added, “There’ve been too many funerals. Too many hospices. These families deserve better.”
NEW: Jon Stewart on Senate passage of bill making 9/11 victims compensation fund permanent: “We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country. But we can stop penalizing them.” https://t.co/A2SgWTnDtl pic.twitter.com/rfZgIpF277
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 23, 2019
The only two senators who voted no on the legislation were Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
“While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded,” Paul wrote in defense of his vote on Twitter. “We have a nearly trillion dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control.”
As I have done on countless issues, including disaster relief and wall funding, I will always take a stand against borrowing more money to pay for programs rather than setting priorities and cutting waste.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2019
Paul added, “As I have done on countless issues, including disaster relief and wall funding, I will always take a stand against borrowing more money to pay for programs rather than setting priorities and cutting waste.”