In Legislation, Never Forget the Heroes Act, News, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

It has been just over two months since the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund 9/11 VCF) announced devastating 50 to 70% cuts in compensation for 9/11 victims on February 15, 2019. These cuts have already had a devastating impact on our clients who were waiting years for justice only to have their award cut in two because of a surprise deadline.

It has been just under two months since the introduction of the Never Forget the Heroes Act: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (H.R. 1327, S. 3591) on February 25, 2019. The bill was introduced with 93 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 21 co-sponsors in the Senate.

We have some good news: the Never Forget the Heroes Act now has 226 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and 33 sponsors in the Senate. The total number of co-sponsors in the House is greater than the number of votes we need for the bill to pass by a simple majority: 218.

However, while support of co-sponsors in the House is promising, ultimately, the bill must first pass through committees and then be introduced on the House floor for a vote. Only then can the bill move onto the Senate.

In the Senate, we have a long way to go in that we would need 51 votes for the bill to pass by a simple majority. Garnering further support is an uphill battle because Republicans have the majority with 53 votes. Historically, most Republican legislators have opposed any effort to provide healthcare and compensation to 9/11 responders. This has been revealed through lobbying efforts to pass the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010, and its 2015 Reauthorization. Both efforts were successful in spite of Republicans, not because of them. Unfortunately, history seems to be repeating itself as only six Republican senators have sponsored the bill, which will be discussed later in this post.

The Never Forget the Heroes Act has garnered extra publicity in recent weeks due to the following Tweet by House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) regarding fellow Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Ilhan Omar has been at the center of controversy surrounding statements made about the 9/11 terrorist attacks at an event held by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Specifically, Rep. Omar noted “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

The video was released by Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) in a Tweet on April 11, 2019.

Rep. Crenshaw’s Tweet shined a spotlight on both Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar’s support of the Never Forget the Heroes Act. Rep. Crenshaw was been painted as a hypocrite for his shaming of Rep. Omar’s comment in light of his own failure to support the Never Forget the Heroes Act.

9/11 FDNY Responder Rob Serra of Staten Island revealed that Rep. Crenshaw recently claimed he was “too busy” to speak with Serra about the Never Forget the Heroes Act. Mr. Serra suffers from 9/11-related cancer, which has left him wheelchair bound. He has been heroically advocating for the Never Forget the Heroes Act in his multiple trips to Capitol Hill. In an interview with the Daily News, Serra commented “I think it’s highly insensitive to describe what happened on 9/11 that way. (Crenshaw) is the wrong person to be making that criticism though. He’s certainly not showing support.”

In his response, Crenshaw accused Serra of “conspiring” with Rep. Max Rose, a claim both Serra and Rose deny. Crenshaw stated, “There’s a more malicious underlying motive here I think…This accusation is a nefarious attempt to undermine me because I spoke out against Omar.”

Although blows were traded – most likely due to politics – a positive outcome appears possible. Today, Crenshaw made some indications that shed light on whether he will cosponsor or vote on the bill: “Generally speaking, I support the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund… I certainly support the fund, but we need to see what the final bill is like. I hope they don’t put poison pills in it so that we are forced to vote against it.”

The Ocasio-Cortez/Omar/Crenshaw/Rose spat opened up the door to a larger question: Why don’t more Republicans support the Never Forget the Heroes Act?

Of the 226 sponsors of the Never Forget the Heroes Act in the House, 182 are Democrats while only 44 are Republican. In other words, while almost 80% of House Democrats support the Act, only 22% of Republicans do.

Similarly, in the Senate, of the 33 sponsors of the Never Forget the Heroes Act, only 6 are Republican. In other words, only 6 out of the 53 Republican Senators have sponsored the Never Forget the Heroes Act. Of the 45 Democrat Senators, 25 of them sponsor the Act, and both Independent Senators (Bernie Sanders-VT and Angus King- ME) sponsor the Act.

Here are the six Republican sponsors of the Never Forget the Heroes Act, with the total population of 9/11 victims in their respective states.

Roy Blunt (R-MO); 89
Susan Collins (R-ME); 71
Tom Cotton (R-AK); 34
Cory Gardner (R-CO); 201
Jerry Moran (R-KS); 30
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); 29

The support of these six Republican senators is remarkable in that their home-state 9/11 victim populations are some of the lowest in the country. While there are confirmed 9/11 victims in all 50 states and in 434 out of 435 Congressional Districts, some states are home to far more victims than others.

Here is a sampling of Senators who have not sponsored the Never Forget the Heroes Act, with the total population of 9/11 victims in their respective states. Click their names to see what they have said about 9/11, and to contact their office directly.

Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL); 4,000
Patrick Toomey (R-PA); 1,500 [Note- Ron Wyden (D-PA) is a sponsor]
Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC); 1,000
Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA); 800
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); 700 [Note- Kamala Harris (D-CA) is a sponsor]
Tim Scott (R-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC); 600
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA); 500

Mike Braun (R-IN) and Todd Young (R-IN); 111
Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); 100
Joshua Hawley (R-MO); 89 [As noted above, Roy Blunt (R-MO) is a sponsor]

We urge our clients, friends, family, and colleagues to call on our legislators to support of the Never Forget the Heroes Act.Click here to find out if your federal legislators support the Never Forget the Heroes Act. If they don’t,  urge them to. It is important that we act now to remind our representatives of their previously stated support for 9/11 victims and urge them to stand by their words by publicly supporting the Never Forget the Heroes Act. If your local Congressional representatives are not yet cosponsors, call them now to ask why. Encourage those who may be on the fence like Crenshaw to pledge their support now.

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