The U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, providing financial support and health care coverage for thousands of first responders and survivors of attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, through 2092. The 97-2 vote Tuesday came after years of disputes with Congress. President Trump is expected to sign the bill Friday among a gathering of 9/11 first responders who were invited to attend a White House signing ceremony.
The fund was set to run out by the end of 2020, leaving about 93,000 first responders and survivors still undergoing treatment or monitoring for serious medical issues including cancer diagnoses nearly two decades since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The House voted earlier this month to permanently reauthorize the fund through 2092, but it hit a snag when Sen. Rand Paul prevented the Senate from voting on it by unanimous consent after balking at the estimated $10.2 billion price tag over the next 10 years. Sen. Mike Lee then placed a procedural hold on the legislation. When the Senate finally voted, both Senators Paul and Lee voted no.
Comedian John Stewart, a long-time supporter of the fund and advocate for first responders, helped bring national attention to the issue when during a hearing in June he scolded members of Congress for their poor and seeming lack of interest. Stewart later called out Sen. Paul for blocking the bill, telling Fox News’ Bret Baier, “Rand Paul presented tissue paper avoidance of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit and now he stands up at the last minute after 15 years of blood, sweat and tears from the 9/11 community so that it’s all over now, now we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community.”
The collapse of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks filled the air with dust and debris containing dangerous toxins like asbestos, a known carcinogen that has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma. Since the attacks, residents, survivors and first responders have suffered serious health effects including cancer diagnoses.