Jul 23, 2019

Senate votes to extend 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2092

Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, smiles as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks by. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The Senate voted 97-2 on Tuesday to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, securing funding for first responders and victims impacted by the toxins at Ground Zero through 2092. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were the only senators to vote no.

Why it matters: The fund is set to run out by 2020, affecting approximately 93,000 first responders and survivors still being treated or monitored 19 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The tally of victims after 9/11 will eventually exceed the 2,977 killed on the day of the attacks, according to the New York Daily News.

The backdrop: Comedian Jon Stewart's championing of the issue, which included an impassioned speech at a House hearing in June in which he blasted members of Congress for their low attendance, has helped bring the bill to national prominence.

  • Stewart told Fox News in June that first responders were "at the end of their rope" with Congress and that the issue has "never been dealt with compassionately" by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • Stewart also called it "outrageous" that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked the bill from being passed by unanimous consent last week. Paul responded by saying that he was "simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation."
  • Paul's amendment was ultimately defeated 22-77.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell said in a statement before the vote: "In just a few hours, the Senate will attend to an important subject that we have never failed to address: The September 11th Victims Compensation Fund… 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. That’s why the Senate has never failed to attend to the Fund before. We weren’t about to do so now."
  • Sen. Rand Paul, who voted against the bill, wrote on Twitter: "While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded. We have a nearly trillion dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control."
  • Jon Stewart said at a press conference after the vote: "We can never repay all that 9/11 community has done for our country. But we can stop penalizing them. And today is that day that they can exhale."

What's next: The bill, which was passed by the House 402-12 earlier this month, will now go to the desk of President Trump for a signature.

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Jon Stewart’s 9/11 victims crusade included lots of Fox News

Jon Stewart holds up the jacket of first responder Ray Pfeifer before testifying at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in June. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The 9/11 first responders will no longer need to swarm Congress every 5 years to extend their benefits, and it's thanks largely to the much-publicized work of Jon Stewart and the lesser-known role of John Feal.

Why it matters: There are 95,320 members enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, which was set up to help those with medical conditions linked to the attacks.

Go deeperArrowJul 29, 2019

Mitch McConnell fractures shoulder after falling at Kentucky home

Mitch McConnell: Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has fractured his shoulder after falling at his Kentucky home, his spokesperson said in a statement Sunday. The 77-year-old McConnell has been treated and released from the hospital and is working from his home in Louisville.

The big picture: The injury comes as a number of Democrats and some Republicans have called upon McConnell to cancel the Senate's August recess so that lawmakers can pass gun control legislation in the aftermath of two deadly mass shootings this weekend. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded on Sunday that Senate Republicans put an end to to their "outrageous obstruction," referencing McConnell's refusal to bring two background check bills passed in the House this year for a vote on the Senate floor.

Pelosi says GOP Senate must end "outrageous obstruction" on gun legislation

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Following a pair of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left a total of 29 dead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a statement Sunday that "the Republican Senate must stop their outrageous obstruction" on gun violence legislation.

Why it matters: The Democratic-controlled House has passed two gun control measures this year that would strengthen background checks — the first gun control bills that Congress has considered in nearly 25 years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) has refused to bring either to the Senate floor. Congress is currently on August recess, but a number of lawmakers have called for an emergency session to consider gun control legislation.

Go deeperArrowAug 4, 2019