Politics

9/11 first responder rips GOP senators over victim fund bill

Senators called 'hypocrites,' 'bottom feeders'

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A 9/11 first responder on Thursday blasted Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee for blocking an attempt to unanimously pass a bill that would have funded the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through 2090.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, requested unanimous consent -- a procedural move that allows a bill to skip several steps to pass unanimously without senators casting an individual vote -- on the bill on the Senate floor so that it could be accelerated to a vote without debate.

But Paul and Lee, who represent Kentucky and Utah, respectively, have balked at the bill's high price tag and want to offset the cost. Lee's office has said he wants to ensure that there is proper oversight to prevent "fraud and abuse."

Speaking to CNN's Alisyn Camerota and John Berman on "New Day," John Feal, a 9/11 first responder, angrily slammed the two senators for blocking the move.

"And then yesterday, Sen. (Kirsten) Gillibrand did her unanimous consent and that was to expose who would be against this. And we found out who it was. And it's the usual suspects. But they're hypocrites at best. No -- not only are they hypocrites, they're bottom feeders. They're opportunists," Feal said.

"You cannot cherry pick and choose when you want to be a fiscal conservative -- shame on him," Feal said, referring to the support that Paul, a self-identified fiscal conservative, gave for President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut, which is helping drive a deficit increase.

Comedian and activist Jon Stewart, who has been advocating on behalf of the responders for the bill's passage, is seeking to authorize the fund through 2090. The House bill does not call for a specific amount of funds, instead allowing for whatever sum is necessary through 2090.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for Paul, said in a statement provided Thursday to CNN that the senator "is not blocking anything" and "is simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation."

In a statement Thursday, Lee called for the program to be funded at more than $10 billion over 10 years.

"I do not want to stop the bill's consideration and believe we can and should address the health needs of those first responders of the ‪9/11 attack," Lee said. "I simply want to ensure that Congress has some continued oversight to ensure the Fund continues to follow the law as intended. We have seen too many times government programs divert from their intended use when Congress abdicates its oversight role."

Neither Paul nor Lee's office provided a response to Feal's personal criticism of the lawmakers.

Feal said Thursday that he was confident the bill would eventually pass the Senate, telling Berman and Camerota that he takes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "at his word right now that we're going to get this done and we're going to have a clean bill."

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, signaled Thursday during an appearance on Fox Business the bill would be passed.

"We're going to pass the 9/11 emergency bill. We always deal with this tragedy and we will do that and we will do it shortly," McConnell said.

CNN's Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.


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