WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — A single Republican politician has blocked a bipartisan bill that would have ensured that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund never runs out of money.
“Mr. President I ask unanimous consent.”
Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand was looking to fast-track the new 9/11 funding bill through the Senate, but was stopped by that single Republican senator – Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“Any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have longevity of 70, 80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable,” Sen. Paul claimed.
Paul questions the bill’s 70-year time frame and notes that the federal government already faces a $22 trillion debt. The bill would reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund through 2090, but Paul says he wants to offer an amendment to pay for the bill.
“I don’t hear Rand Paul get up on the floor and say we have to pay for the entire defense budget, the money for our soldiers, that’s fine with me, but why is he doing it now, with these first responders? They are no different than our soldiers,” Sen. Chuck Schumer declared.
Local leaders in New York City are also slamming Paul’s shocking move. City Council speaker Cory Johnson took to Twitter to call out Paul’s actions, which keep thousands of sick police officers and fire fighters in limbo when it comes to paying for their ongoing medical care.
“How do you sleep at night Senator?” Johnson said. “You’re a shame!”
Freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also denounced Paul’s block of the victims’ compensation fund, saying the Kentucky Republican was “playing games” with officers’ lives. “We can’t afford to wait,” Cortez added.
On Wednesday, members of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association were once again lobbying on Capitol Hill. They are fed up having to come back year after year to plead for aid.
Last month, Det. Lou Alvarez testified before a house committee shortly before he died of cancer caused by toxins at Ground Zero.
“You said you would never forget, well I’m here to make sure you don’t,” Alvarez said.
The bill has already passed the House with 402 votes and Gillibrand says they have more than enough support in the Senate.
“Sen. Paul may have turned his back on first responders today, but now we have a filibuster proof bipartisan support of 73 co-sponsors in addition to myself which means there are no more excuses for those on the other side,” New York’s junior senator explained.
Sen. Schumer however, worries that Republican leader Mitch McConnell might add other legislation to the bill, putting it in jeopardy.
“There have been rumors that it could be attached to something else. The best way to get this done is do it now,” Schumer added.
Despite this move by Sen. Paul, the Senate is expected to pass the bill before leaving for their summer recess by Aug. 2.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked the House bill to the Senate calendar this week.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)