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Rand Paul Blocks 9/11 Victims Fund

Rand Paul speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC.
Rand Paul speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“I am deeply disappointed that my colleague has just objected to the desperately needed and urgent bill for our 9/11 first responders.”

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand asked the senate for unanimous consent to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation on Wednesday, but was blocked by libertarian Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who cited concern over the growing deficit.

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country,” he said. “We have a $22 trillion debt. We’re adding debt at about $1 trillion a year. Therefore, any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that is going to have the longevity of 70 or 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that is less valuable. We should at least be having this debate.”

Critics were quick to point to Rand’s support for the 2017 Trump tax cuts, which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, as evidence of the senator’s inconsistent stance on the deficit. Proponents of the cuts argued they would stimulate the economy enough to compensate for loss in federal tax revenue, but they have so far failed to deliver. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cuts will add more than $1 trillion to the deficit over a decade.

The House passed its version of the reauthorization bill last week in a 402-12 vote. Despite Paul’s objections, the Senate is expected to vote on the bill and pass a version before summer recess begins on August 2nd.

“I would say to my friend from Kentucky, throughout the history of American, when our young men and women and older men and women volunteered in the armed services and risked their lives for our freedom, we came back and gave them health care,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. “Why are these people any different?”

The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund was created to support survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack who suffer ongoing medical problems in the aftermath of the crisis. The Fund’s Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya warned in February that the fund was rapidly depleting and set to expire in 2020, alerting lawmakers that it would have to “make significant reductions in awards,” without additional funding.

“I am deeply disappointed that my colleague has just objected to the desperately needed and urgent bill for our 9/11 first responders,” said Sen. Kristen Gillibrand.

The issue came to national attention through an advocacy campaign by comedian Jon Stewart. Stewart gave an emotional testimony before a House judiciary subcommittee last month admonishing lawmakers for delaying the bill’s reauthorization, and later singled out Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for playing “political football” with the bill by using it as a bargaining chip to pass his other legislative interests.

McConnell defended his handling of the bill, and questioned why Stewart was getting “all bent out of shape” over the bill’s delayed reauthorization.

“If you want to know why we’re bent out of shape, meet with them tomorrow, and don’t make them beg for it,” said Stewart in June. “You could pass this thing as a stand alone bill tomorrow.”

Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a co-owner Citizen Truth.

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