The vote on the largely bi-partisan bill to replenish the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund has been stalled by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) for budgetary reasons.
"Sen. Mike Lee of Utah placed a procedural hold on an extension of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, a Senate aide confirmed to The Post, effectively blocking the bill from coming up for a vote despite overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle," reports the New York Post. "Shortly after Lee kicked the can down the road, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) requested a unanimous consent agreement on the Senate floor, only to have the motion swatted down by Sen. Rand Paul."
Sen. Paul cited the $22 trillion debt as part of his rationale to hold the bill up, arguing that spending should be cut elsewhere before committing to something for another 70 years.
“I reserve the right to object,” said Paul. "It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in this country — we have a $22 trillion debt, [and] we’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year — and therefore 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."
According to The Hill, Paul said that if the bill were brought up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, he would be offering up an amendment, "but until then I will object." A spokesperson for the Kentucky senator that he is "not blocking anything" and that he is "simply seeking to pay for it."
"As with any bill, Senator Paul always believes it needs to be paid for. Senator Paul is simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation,” the spokesperson told The Hill.
A spokesperson for Sen. Mike Lee said he wants to give the legislation one more look to "prevent fraud and abuse."
"Sen. Lee is seeking a vote to ensure the fund has the proper oversight in place to prevent fraud and abuse," said the spokesperson.
The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund was created to aid the first responders who led the rescue effort on Ground Zero for several months after the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11 — a tragedy that caused many permanent illnesses. Last Friday, the U.S. House passed the replenishments for the funds by an overwhelming majority — 402 to 12. Fox News reports that it "comes as the $7 billion 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund is being depleted and has cut benefit payments by up to 70 percent." The bill would ensure the fund can pay benefits for 70 years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has expressed support for the bill and praised the 9/11 first responders as "American heroes and patriots."
"The first responders who rushed into danger on September 11th, 2001 are the very definition of American heroes and patriots," McConnell said. "The Senate has never forgotten the Victim Compensation Fund and we aren’t about to start now. Nothing about our shared goal to provide for these heroes is remotely partisan. We will consider this important legislation soon."