Mitch McConnell

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McConnell Pledges Senate Vote On 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Bill

June 25, 2019 - 5:46 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday agreed to call a Senate vote to renew and make permanent the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, according to a group of first responders who met with the Kentucky Republican.

It was a move that first responders on Capitol Hill were hoping for, as WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“He promised us that he would move this along after the House passes the law to him hopefully by August,” said retired NYPD officer Matt McCauley.

He notes the activists didn’t have to meet with McConnell long before he understood their side of the story.

“We did discuss what's at stake, but he seemed to be fully briefed on the issues and understood what was at stake,” McCauley said.

A replenished fund would means responders and survivors will receive payments for 9/11 related illnesses or death. 

The meeting comes two weeks after retired NYPD detective Lou Alvarez captivated a House panel hearing in Washington on the issue. The cancer-stricken Alvarez is now in hospice and could not attend Tuesday's meeting. However, he requested that his shield be given to McConnell.

“He was moved by it. So, he appreciated it,” said retired Lt. Brendan Fitzpatrick.

Asked Friday if he had a message for McConnell, Alvarez said, "We have to put partisan politics aside and take care of the first responders."

Prior to the meeting, John Feal, a recovery worker and a longtime activist, said McConnell has "a sense of urgency'' about the bill and wants to see it approved before Congress goes on its August recess.

Feal told WCBS 880's Haskell that he was optimistic that he would be able to convince McConnell.

“We’re gonna challenge Mitch McConnell’s humanity and we’re gonna hope we can sway him to see and sense the urgency in the 9/11 community,” said Feal, who has dealt with the senate leader in the past. "I learned that he likes to play politics, I learned that he likes to play the villain but I also know that he's a man of his word."

Feal said 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, who has criticized McConnell and other congressional leaders for failing to ensure that the $7 billion fund is replenished.

The full House is expected to pass the bill next month and McConnell will put the bill up for a vote in the Senate soon after that.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer previously says McConnell was the only barrier preventing 9/11 victims' families from getting the help they need.

"All we need is leader McConnell to put it on the floor of the Senate right after it passes the House and it will get done and all thsoe families can breathe a sigh of relief," Schumer said. "These families have waited too long, there's been too much delay."

Schumer said the fund should be made permanent as soon as possible.