Schumer Pleads With Sen. McConnell To Commit To Hold Stand-Alone Vote On 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund Fix Legislation Immediately After It Passes The Full HouseJune 12, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today pleaded with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell to commit to bringing up legislation to fix the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund for a vote in the United States Senate as a stand-alone bill the week after it passes the full House. The Victims Compensation Fund, authorized by Congress in 2010 and again in 2015, provides compensation to firefighters, police officers, construction workers and others who courageously responded to the September 11 attacks. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.
Mr. President, just now, members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill to address the shortfall in the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which provides aids to the heroes, and the families of the heroes, who rushed to the towers selflessly on September the 11th, 2001.
Even in a divided Congress, even in a divided country, this is an issue of absolute moral clarity. On that fateful day, men and women of the FDNY, NYPD, EMS and the construction labor unions who rushed to Ground Zero were like our soldiers. Like our soldiers, they rushed towards danger, for our safety, without thinking of their own. And just as we don’t leave our soldiers behind on the battlefield, we must not leave the brave first responders behind when it comes to their health care.
And yet, shamefully, it has always been a struggle here in this Congress to abide by that principle. I have lived through the years when everyone said the first responders getting respiratory illnesses and cancers that they hadn’t seen in such young people were crazy for thinking it came from the Pile. And I lived through the years when, even though the science eventually confirmed that 9/11 was the cause, some in Congress complained it was too expensive to provide these heroes with the healthcare they so very needed. Some said that it was a New York issue, they’re not going to help—as if we care about where our soldiers come from when they die on the battlefield.
After years of struggle, we eventually passed a health care program, but initially it wasn’t even permanent. And we have had to fight every time there’s a problem, every time it needed an extension, every time it needed more funding. It’s a painful and slow process, a difficult process, one that should never have been the way it has been. And every single one of those times, those brave first responders have had to come here to testify—wheeling through the halls of Congress, their bodies riddled with cancer, to beg Senators and Congressmen to help them get their healthcare. My good friend, my dear friend Ray Pfeiffer, God bless his memory, who knew he was dying, would come down here again and again and again—not for himself, he knew it was too late for him—but to make sure his friends and their families got the help they needed.
It’s shameful. There’s no other word for it. Shameful, that our brave first responders have had to suffer the indignity of delay after delay after delay, of searching for some must-pass bill to tuck their issue into because this Congress, this Senate, didn’t think it was important enough to pass on its own.
Let me tell you something: we are done with that. We are not doing this again. Not this time.
The House Judiciary Committee just passed the fix to the Victim’s Compensation Fund. The full House will follow suit soon. As soon as the House passes this bill, it should be on the floor of the Senate immediately—as a standalone bill.
Once this bill passes the House, there will be only one person who stands between the brave first responders now suffering from cancer and illness and the money they need to save or extend their lives, and that one person is Leader McConnell. So I say to Leader McConnell: this is not politics. This is not a game. These are our heroes, American heroes, who are suffering and need our help. Your help, Leader McConnell, is needed now. I am imploring, pleading, even begging to Leader McConnell, to put the bill on the floor immediately after it passes the House.
I am imploring, I am pleading, I am begging Leader McConnell to give us a commitment, today, that as soon as the House passes this bill, he will put it on the floor of the Senate, as a standalone bill. Once he puts it on the floor of the Senate, it will pass the Senate, with strong bipartisan support. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. The President will sign it. And these brave heroes, who have come down here time and time again, will breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they and their families, even if they are gone, will get the help they deserve.
We will reach the point soon, most likely this year, when more will have died from 9/11-related illnesses than on 9/11 itself. It has been over seventeen years since 9/11, but unfortunately brave Americans are still dying. Let’s do our job. Let’s take care of them. Now.