Senate to vote Tuesday on 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate will vote Tuesday on whether to extend funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The bill, which passed in the House by a vote of 402-12, would ensure the fund pays benefits for families of 9/11 victims, and well as others who were sickened at ground zero for the next 70 years.
The new bill comes as the current $7 billion Victim Compensation Fund is being depleted and has cut benefit payments by up to 70%.
Some Republicans blocked last week's vote, but Republican Rep. Peter King, of Seaford, says the measure has bipartisan support in the Senate and President Donald Trump will sign it.
"I'm confident the president will sign it," he says. "Right now in the Senate, there is already 73 cosponsors, and all you need is 51 votes to pass it. So this is going to pass. It's been a long time coming but the victims of 9/11 and their families deserve this compensation."
John Feal, a 9/11 first responder, has traveled to the nation's capital 281 times to advocate on behalf of victims and their families. He will go again Tuesday. Feal says he is confident the bill will pass.
The Uniformed Firefighters Association called on senators Monday to push the vote through. The union president says it is time for Washington lawmakers to "walk the walk."
"There's no shortage of 'Never Forget' on Sept. 11. That's one day a year, and some of our elected officials seem to be forgetting when they're called to the mat," says Gerard Fitzgerald, of Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Mike Lee, of Utah, plan to offer amendments to the proposed legislation in the name of fiscal responsibility. But Feal questions their motives, and says their bid will fail.
Feal acknowledged the number of those who have died from 9/11-related illnesses continues to grow. And while replenishing the fund for victims and their families will help some survive, it won't save everyone, and it can't bring back those who are already gone.
"Since Luis Alvarez died on June 29, we've lost 18 9/11 first responders. Eighteen in 24 days," Feal says. "I'd like to say we're gonna live happily ever after but that's just not the case. More and more people are going to get sick, and more and more people are going to die."