Schumer Floor Remarks Urging The Senate To Permanently Reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

July 23, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the upcoming Senate vote on the legislation to permanently extend the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

M. President, I’m speaking on the bill as well as the amendments. In a short time, the Senate will vote on and pass a permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. In my short time here on the floor, I can’t do justice to the years upon years of work by the first responders, by labor leaders, by advocates, that led to this moment. But suffice it to say: this is not a day of joy for them, or for this bill’s authors. Rather, it’s a day of relief.

For eighteen years, those first responders—some of whom are here in the gallery—have watched their brothers and sisters get sick because they rushed bravely to the towers at Ground Zero. At first, they were told by their government the air was safe. It was not safe.

We began hearing about cancers that people never got when they were 38 or 40 or 42, occurring all of a sudden. And firefighters and police officers, and they all had one thing in common, they all rushed to the towers. We had to persuade people that this was real. They had to persuade people because they saw their brothers and sisters dying.

They endured folks telling them that they were crazy for thinking they had sicknesses they suffered that had anything to do with 9/11. They were not crazy. And the people who told them they were, shame on them. Including government agencies and others. 

And then, once it was confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that these cancers and respiratory illnesses were linked to the toxic dust and ash around the Pile, it became an exhausting struggle to get Congress to provide the care they needed but couldn’t afford.

There were numerous false dawns and delays, temporary reauthorizations. We were forced to wait and wait and wait, to “compromise” with people’s lives. Excuse after excuse. Some Senators voted proudly for tax cuts, unpaid for, to the wealthiest of Americans but demanded offsets for these folks, who had served us, like our soldiers have served us. Thank God those excuses, those delays end today—for good. And our first responders can go home and do what they want to do. Tend to their own health, their families health, the health of their brothers and sisters who are suffering and ailing. And tend to the families who’ve lost loved ones, but are still part of their families.  

The 9/11 Health program is already permanent. Soon, we’ll make the Victims Compensation Fund virtually permanent as well. And the twilight struggle of nearly two decades to get these brave men and women what they deserve will be—hopefully and finally—complete.

Once we defeat the few amendments before us—amendments that would delay the bill further if not kill it—we should pass this bill overwhelmingly…so we can send the first responders—those here and everywhere—home, where they belong, with their family and friends. These are the same soldiers of valor, who’ve selflessly risked their lives in our wars and conflicts overseas. 

There was a war right in the city I love. And these were our bravest soldiers.  They rushed to the towers—maybe some people were alive, maybe there were people who could be saved. We didn’t know that then. We saw families holding signs, “Have you seen my sister Mary?” “Have you seen my son Jim?” And these people rushed to the towers to see if the Jims, the Marys were alive. And didn’t ask about themselves. Now, we’re asking America to stand by them—every American. Every Senator: Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. That shouldn’t matter on an issue like this. 

We are now at the very end of a long struggle. The struggle may end for the people in this chamber, including those of us like Senator Gillibrand and myself who worked so hard through the years for this legislation. But the struggle does not end for those who are sick, or who may get sick. And for their families, at least we are giving them some degree of help because they gave us so much help on that horrible day—9/11. And those ensued just afterwards. 

Let’s pass this bill once and for all. Let’s do our duty to them, to America, to our ideals.