WASHINGTON – The Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to a bill ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.
The 97-2 vote sends the bill to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.
The vote came after Democratic senators agreed to allow votes on amendments sponsored by two Republican senators who had been blocking the widely popular bill. The Senate easily defeated the amendments proposed by GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The two men were the only senators who voted against the bill’s final passage.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said 9/11 first responders and their families have had “enough of political games” that delayed passage of the bill for months.
“Our 9/11 heroes deserve this program as written,” Gillibrand said. “Let our heroes go home and live in peace and finally exhale.”
The bill would extend through 2092 a fund created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, essentially making it permanent. The $7.4 billion fund is rapidly being depleted, and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70%.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the House-passed bill would result in about $10.2 billion in additional compensation payments over 10 years, including more than $4 billion for claims already filed.
The bill is named in honor of three first responders who died after 9/11: New York City police detective James Zadroga, firefighter Ray Pfeifer and detective Luis Alvarez. Family members of all three men were in the Senate gallery for the final vote.