Should taxpayers continue to compensate the 9/11 victims and their families, and for how long?
A permanent healthcare program for 9/11 first responders and survivors passed Congress in 2015. (It had passed in temporary extensions for years prior, but never a so-called “permanent” extension.)
Yet the current Victims Compensation Fund, to compensate their families as well as local residents who developed health conditions such as cancer, is currently set to expire in 2020.
What the bill does
The Never Forget the Heroes Act would make the Victims Compensation Fund de facto “permanent” as well as the healthcare program for 9/11 responders, by extending it through 2090.
It’s unclear how many people, if any, would still be affected in the year 2090. But then again, the U.S. is still paying a Civil War pension to a child of a Confederate soldier.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the legislation makes a commitment for the country to adequately give back to those who gave so much for the country on that terrible day.
“We need to permanently authorize and fully fund the VCF as soon as possible and make sure the VCF has the additional funding it needs to cover its anticipated shortfall,” Rep. Maloney said in a press release. “When we vowed to never forget after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — it also meant that we would never leave our heroes without the support they need.”
“As scientists and doctors predicted, and as we feared, cancer rates are continuing to rise in first responder and survivor communities. Some of these heroes have been battling these diseases for years and others are being newly diagnosed as we speak,” Maloney continued. “For their sake, and the diagnoses still to come, we cannot allow the fund to run out of money — it would be devastating to those who rely on it each and every day.”
“As each day passes without permanent reauthorization and full funding, anxiety and suffering grow — and that is unacceptable. Our 9/11 heroes answered the call when we were attacked, and now Congress needs to answer the call and stand up for them.”
What opponents say
Opponents usually don’t mention that fact too loudly, due to the poor optics of such a move. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) previously held up a prior version of the legislation unless another unrelated Republican priority — lifting the ban on U.S. oil exports — was included.
Odds of passage
The House version has 44 cosponsors: 34 Democrats and 10 Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate version has 17 cosponsors: 16 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.