Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked an attempt by Senate Democrats today to move forward the House-passed reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, arguing that the deficit is too large and the program needs to be paid for.
The House of Representatives voted 402-12 last week to pass the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, sending it to the upper chamber where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been under pressure from first responders and advocates to hold a vote soon.
“Nothing about our shared goal to provide for these heroes is remotely partisan,” McConnell vowed after the House vote. “We will consider this important legislation soon.”
The bill extends the fund, which was set to expire next year, through 2090. Lead co-sponsors of the bill in the upper chamber, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), have called for a vote as soon as possible.
Today, Gillibrand took to the Senate floor to move for passage of the bill by unanimous consent. But Paul objected, saying, “It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country.”
“New spending,” he said, should “be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable.”
Paul did not say how he would vote if the bill was brought up for a roll call vote, but said he would offer an unspecified amendment to the House-passed legislation.
“This is unacceptable. 9/11 first responders are suffering and dying for their heroism, and my Republican colleagues can’t get it together to help them. I ask you: What are you even doing here?” tweeted Gillibrand.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has placed a procedural hold on the bill, preventing it from coming to the floor for a vote.
“Our nation has a moral obligation to act quickly to ensure injured and sick responders receive the compensation they need and deserve for losses sustained in service to their country, just as they acted quickly when we needed them on 9/11,” International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger wrote to Lee today.