McConnell pledges vote on 9/11 bill after Stewart criticism

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a Senate vote on a bill ensuring that a victims' compensation fund for the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.

News 12 Staff

Jun 25, 2019, 3:38 PM

Updated 1,817 days ago

Share:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to call a Senate vote on a bill ensuring that a victims' compensation fund for the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.
McConnell made the commitment after meeting Tuesday with a group of first responders.
"We want to try to deal with (the legislation) before the August recess," the Kentucky Republican told ABC News, adding that he had a "good meeting" with the first responders and even received the shield of a retired New York City detective who now is suffering from cancer after working for weeks at the World Trade Center site.
The meeting came two weeks after comedian Jon Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, offered withering criticism of Congress at a public hearing at the Capitol that was attended by uniformed firefighters and police officers but few lawmakers.
McConnell now has "a sense of urgency" about the bill and wants to see it approved before Congress goes on its August recess, said John Feal, a recovery worker at the World Trade Center site and a longtime activist.
Approving the bill in the House and Senate by August would be "way ahead of schedule" and a credit to McConnell and advocates such as comedian Jon Stewart, Feal said.
Stewart has criticized McConnell and other congressional leaders for failing to ensure that the victims' fund, set up after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, is replenished.
The $7 billion fund is being depleted and has cut benefit payments by up to 70 percent. A bill pending in Congress would ensure the fund can pay benefits for 70 years.
Stewart, the former host of "The Daily Show," mocked McConnell on Stephen Colbert's late-night talk show last week, accusing the GOP leader of slow walking the legislation and using it as a political pawn to get other things done.
McConnell said last week that the issue will be addressed and that he does not know why Stewart was "all bent out of shape."
Feal called Tuesday's meeting with McConnell "one of the best meetings" he's had at the Capitol in more than 15 years of advocacy on the issue.
He and other first responders were "ready to shake hands" on a deal or "ready to get into a street fight," Feal said, adding that in the end, no drama was needed.
The Senate leader said last week that Congress has always acted in a compassionate way on the 9/11 fund, a statement Feal strongly disputed. The fund has always had a five-year sunset provision, among other problems, Feal said.
Feal told reporters that he gave McConnell "my version of what compassion is ... and I think we left the meeting now knowing what our compassion is, and he has to match that. And I think he will."
Feal, who lost part of his left foot in an accident during recovery work after the attacks, credited Stewart with raising the profile of first responders still suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses related to the attacks.
Stewart "put our 18 years of pain and suffering" in public view at a House hearing June 11, Feal said. First responders shared similar stories with McConnell at Tuesday's meeting, he said.
The bill to replenish the fund must pass the House first. Majority Democrats have promised a vote before their August recess.


More from News 12
1:20
Rapper Ja Rule performs at Mitchel Field as part of Nassau County’s Juneteenth celebration

Rapper Ja Rule performs at Mitchel Field as part of Nassau County’s Juneteenth celebration

1:26
Pleasant weekend on Long Island ahead of expected heat wave

Pleasant weekend on Long Island ahead of expected heat wave

0:31
Suffolk police: Motorcyclist seriously hurt in Bay Shore crash

Suffolk police: Motorcyclist seriously hurt in Bay Shore crash

1:46
‘We lost a brother.’ Friends, loved ones remember ‘Rookie of the Year’ firefighter at Hagerman FD

‘We lost a brother.’ Friends, loved ones remember ‘Rookie of the Year’ firefighter at Hagerman FD

1:34
Early voting begins on Long Island for Democratic primary elections

Early voting begins on Long Island for Democratic primary elections

All lanes clear on Southern State parkway following overturned vehicle crash

All lanes clear on Southern State parkway following overturned vehicle crash

Is your dad awesome? Long Island tell us why your dad rocks!

Is your dad awesome? Long Island tell us why your dad rocks!

0:27
Police: Owner of Huntington restaurant, 2 security guards arrested during State Liquor Authority compliance check

Police: Owner of Huntington restaurant, 2 security guards arrested during State Liquor Authority compliance check

2:07
New beach rules limiting access take effect after shooting in Long Beach

New beach rules limiting access take effect after shooting in Long Beach

2:04
Kevin Jonas undergoes surgery to remove common skin cancer; urges fans to get checked

Kevin Jonas undergoes surgery to remove common skin cancer; urges fans to get checked

2:15
Police: Woman arrested for motorcyclist hit-and-run in Patchogue

Police: Woman arrested for motorcyclist hit-and-run in Patchogue

2:15
Oakdale residents call for Islip officials to hold owners of former Dowling College more accountable

Oakdale residents call for Islip officials to hold owners of former Dowling College more accountable

2:07
Study: Food insecurity becomes growing problem for Long Islanders

Study: Food insecurity becomes growing problem for Long Islanders

0:41
Mastic Beach street renamed for teen who was killed 3 years ago

Mastic Beach street renamed for teen who was killed 3 years ago

1:49
Baldwin residents & businesses call on Liberty to reimburse them after water main break

Baldwin residents & businesses call on Liberty to reimburse them after water main break

0:27
Police: Man accused of exposing himself outside Westbury church

Police: Man accused of exposing himself outside Westbury church

2:37
Police: 16-year-old shot in Long Beach following chaotic night with massive crowds

Police: 16-year-old shot in Long Beach following chaotic night with massive crowds

2:08
69th annual Strawberry Festival in Mattituck underway

69th annual Strawberry Festival in Mattituck underway

1:59
Food Truck Friday: No Good Burger

Food Truck Friday: No Good Burger

0:50
'I'm just so thankful': American Heart Association honors 13-year-old survivor from Franklin Square

'I'm just so thankful': American Heart Association honors 13-year-old survivor from Franklin Square