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Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GARDNER. Madam President, I rise for the swift passage of bipartisan legislation I am leading with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand known as the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.

I will never forget the images of the brave men and women running into danger to save lives during the September 11 terrorist attacks. I never had the privilege or honor of going to New York City prior to September 11, 2001, but I will never forget my first visit after September 11, 2001, going to Ground Zero, watching the firetrucks, with their flag, heading to Ground Zero to continue to work, and now that has become absolutely emblazoned in the minds of the people of this country.

The work they did wasn't just for those in Manhattan who suffered incredible loss but the work they carried forth for our country--they became symbols of our security, symbols of our freedoms, symbols of our country's willingness, effort, and tenacity to fight back.

This legislation would ensure that all 9/11 first responders and survivors who have been injured by the toxins at Ground Zero would receive their full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund now and into the future as more and more become ill with 9/11-related cancers.

When I visited Ground Zero, I will never forget that smell--a burning, acrid odor. These men and women didn't just visit it once but time and again to carry out the cleanup of Ground Zero. Unfortunately, thousands of first responders and survivors, including many who reside in my home State of Colorado, now suffer from illnesses and diseases from the toxins they inhaled day after day during the recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

It is unacceptable for this Congress to fail these heroes and their families. It is unacceptable to fail the families and heroes of September 11. There is no time to waste as Congress debates this issue. More and more people are becoming ill, more and more people are suffering. Today people such as Lou Alvarez came to Washington, DC, postponing a chemotherapy treatment to advocate for his fellow heroes.

The fund expires at the end of this year if we do not act. These men and women have already been forced to reduce their compensation. We have seen a reduction of their compensation for 9/11 first responders due to the impending insolvency.

Jon Stewart, a longtime advocate for the 9/11 responders, testified today before the House Judiciary Committee, expressing the urgency of making sure these first responders receive the care they deserve. He testified before members of the committee in the House about the need to act now because time is of the essence. He said that these men and women ``responded in 5 seconds. They did their jobs, with courage, grace, tenacity, humility . . . 18 years later'' it is time for Congress to do its job.

That is what I hope my colleagues will do--our job. Pass this important bipartisan legislation, recognizing the service and the sacrifice of these great heroes of 9/11.

Tomorrow the House companion legislation will be marked up in the Judiciary Committee. Congress must do the right thing. The Senate must do our job, and it must act on this legislation. I urge my colleagues to join this legislation to cosponsor the bill, to support this effort, and to support the effort in the House and Senate to swiftly pass this legislation to ensure these heroes receive the care they need and deserve.

We didn't know what was going to happen on September 11, but for the thousands of people involved at Ground Zero, we know what will happen if Congress fails to act. It is unacceptable. That is why I urge my colleagues to pass this important legislation, to do the right thing and stand up for their fellow heroes who served our country so well.


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