Just as we had feared, the drive to replenish the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has stalled in the Senate, held up in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”
The House last week voted 402-12 to advance the legislation to ensure funding through 2092, but Mike Lee (R-Utah) placed a procedural hold on it Wednesday that blocks a Senate vote. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) then tried to unblock it via a unanimous-consent motion on the floor — only to have Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) swat that down.
Paul is demanding other spending cuts to offset the estimated $1 billion-a-year cost. Lee wants only a 10-year extension, with no provision in case costs exceed estimates.
Yet the House bill has 73 Senate co-sponsors — which means it will become law, eventually, no matter what arcane procedures the dissenting senators invoke.
But time is of the essence: The fund has already had to slash up to 70 percent of its payouts to defray the costs of (mostly) medical care for the firefighters, cops, construction workers, etc., exposed to toxins (from asbestos to mercury) as they spent weeks in the post-9/11 recovery and cleanup effort.
Nor is a simple 10-year, fixed-funding renewal enough: Dying men like Det. Luis Alvarez shouldn’t have to keep going back to beg Congress for justice.
If Paul and Lee really think they can somehow block a longer-term reauthorization, they have a moral duty to offer at least a fast fix now. If they’re just posturing, for shame.
When duty called, these workers unhesitatingly went into action at Ground Zero. Many have already died from 9/11-linked illnesses.
Fiscal responsibility is fine in its place. But it’s no excuse for ignoring America’s responsibility to those who answered the call of duty.
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