US senate passes 9/11 first responder bill championed by Jon Stewart

Bill effectively makes compensation fund for victims of the terror attacks permanent

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 23 July 2019 22:07 BST
Jon Stewart: 'Last week seven first responders died due to 9/11 related illnesses'

The Senate has passed a bill making a compensation fund for victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001 effectively permanent after weeks of battles on Capitol Hill.

The bill would extend through 2092 a fund created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, essentially making it permanent. The $7.4bn (£5.9bn) fund is rapidly being depleted, and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70 per cent.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the House-passed bill would result in about $10.2bn (£8.2) in additional compensation payments over 10 years, including more than $4bn (£3.2bn) for claims already filed.

The 97-2 vote sends the bill to Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

The vote came after Democratic senators agreed to allow votes on amendments sponsored by two Republican senators who had been blocking the widely popular bill.

The Senate easily defeated the amendments proposed by GOP Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Mr Lee and Mr Paul voted against the bill’s final passage.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the bill guarantees “once and for all that the heroes who rushed to the towers 18 years ago will no longer have to worry about compensation for their families when they’re gone.”

First responders “won’t have to return to Congress anymore to fight for the compensation they always should have been given,” Mr Schumer said.

“They will be able to go home, attend to their illnesses, their family members, their friends," he said. "That’s what they always wanted to do, just take care of themselves and their families.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had been the subject of withering attacks from comedian Jon Stewart and other activists, also hailed the passage of the bill.

The legislation makes “solemn commitments” to firefighters, police officers and other first responders who “rushed selflessly toward the World Trade Center” just moments after the 2001 terrorist attacks began, Mr McConnell said.

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“Congress can never repay these men, women and families for their sacrifices. But we can do our small part to try and make our heroes whole,” he said on the Senate floor. “That’s why the Senate has never failed to attend to the (victims’) fund before. We weren’t about to do so now.”

Additional reporting by AP

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