OPINION: Extension of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is well overdue


Sen.(R-KY) Rand Paul speaks July, 27, 2017, at the CATO Institute in Washington, D.C. Tribune News Service

“#NeverForget the brave men and women who died on 9/11 and those who sacrifice to this day to protect and defend us,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a tweet on Sept. 11, 2016. 

“Let’s #neverforget those lost on #September11 and honor those who fight to defend us. I pray we work together for peace,” Paul tweeted a year later, again on 9/11. 

“Our nation suffered a tremendous loss on #September11th 2001. #NeverForget the families and loved ones lost or the fallen soldiers that lost their lives defending our country after,” Paul tweeted again in 2018. 

These are all empty words from a spineless senator. 

After clearing the House of Representatives with a 402-12 vote, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. proposed unanimous consent of the Senate to pass an extension to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, ultimately to be shot down by Paul. 

Concerns over how this program will be funded until the proposed extension is set to end in 2090 are why Paul claims to object. 

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country…and therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that is going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable,” Paul saidon the Senate floor Wednesday.

In other words, the estimated $10.2 billion over the next 10 years is simply too much to pay in a country with a deficit of over $22 trillion without cuts elsewhere.

The fact that almost 18 years later this is even a discussion is horrendous, and it’s even worse that there would be an objection for any reason.

Thankfully, on Tuesday the Senate voted on the bill, and it passed in a landslide 97-2 vote. The bill now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it. 

Our first responders are dying, and even more are out of work due to illness. What Paul did isn’t noble, it’s a joke. The passing of this bill was liable to happen; 73 senators had already sponsored the bill before the vote. All Paul did was prolong the inevitable and make sick and dying people wait on the support they desperately need and deserve.

The fund was set to stop taking claims in December 2020, and there are over 19,000 unpaid claims that need to be addressed. I get it, this money has to come from somewhere, but curbing the national debt should not be put on the backs of dying first responders. 

The irony of this story is unreal. The same week that the GOP is attacking congresswomen for being “unAmerican,” a Republican senator has the nerve to stand up and block a bill that supports arguably the most American group of people there is.

Ultimately, Paul failed. Thankfully, most of our senators have at least a little bit of empathy for these people, but Paul’s actions are inexcusable and pathetic.   

Now, in some cases time really wouldn’t be an issue. But when we’re talking about people who are dying from cancer or unable to work as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals, time isn’t really something that can be afforded to waste.

I am happy to know those men and women will soon get the support they deserve, but it’s a stain on our government that it has taken this long for the fund to become permanent. Rand Paul and any who defend his actions should be ashamed of themselves.

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