July 23, 2019

Just Before Senate Vote on 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Bill, Gillibrand Takes to Floor and Urges Colleagues to Stand with 9/11 Heroes and Survivors, Finally Make The 9/11 VCF Permanent

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took to the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to pass her bipartisan legislation, the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, which would make the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent. The bipartisan legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month with overwhelming bipartisan support and has 75 cosponsors in the Senate, would ensure that 9/11 first responders and survivors who have been injured by the toxins at Ground Zero and have certified 9/11 illnesses would receive their full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) now and into the future as more become ill with 9/11 cancers.

The Senate is set to vote this afternoon on the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:

Madam President, I rise to join my colleagues in speaking about our 9/11 heroes.

I want to thank Senator Schumer for his extraordinary leadership, his unwavering support, his dedication to taking this across the finish line, and his unbelievable willingness to lift up the voices of people who were not being listened to. So, thank you to Senator Schumer.

I first want to note that while we are debating this bill, there is a wake happening on Staten Island right now for Detective Christopher Cranston.

A father of five, he was only 48 years old, but he will be buried on Thursday because of the months of work he did on the pile at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills Landfill.

He spent his 20th anniversary just a few weeks ago in chemotherapy.

Madam President, the eyes of the nation are looking at this chamber today to see if we finally will stand by our 9/11 heroes for the rest of their lives.

In a few minutes, heroes such as James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, Lou Alvarez will have their names etched into the history books forever – which is where they belong.

Their families are in the gallery today, here again, walking the halls of this chamber and this Congress to be heard. Here again to ask one more time that this body do what’s right. To stand by them in their gravest time of need. 

Their families are here today to watch whether this chamber will do what’s right. They’re standing here with so many others in the 9/11 community who have fought so hard to demand that Congress do the right thing.

So let’s honor their service today. Let’s actually honor their commitment to coming here time and again – not for themselves, but for their brothers and sisters who are sick, who are still dying, all across this country. Seven are dying a week.

Let’s honor their ultimate sacrifice they paid for responding to the call of duty when the nation needed them most.

Responders came from every state across this country.

Last week, we lost Richard Driscoll, the 200th firefighter, FDNY firefighter, to succumb to a 9/11 illness.

More police officers have died since 9/11 than on 9/11.

More than 10,000 people have been certified with a 9/11-related cancer, with more being diagnosed every day.

More will get sick. More will die. Some of them won’t be diagnosed for years.

And that includes responders – and it includes the residents, teachers, and students who stayed downtown because the government told them the air was safe, they told them it was safe to breathe – even though it was not.

This bill won’t change any of that. But we can finally let the people in the gallery, sitting here watching us today, witnessing, we will let the people in the gallery go home knowing that the government will truly never forget.

We owe them that promise. And today we have the opportunity to let them get back to their lives, be with their families, and exhale. They at least deserve that.

I want to thank Senator Gardner for his leadership on this bill.

I want to thank Senator McConnell for staying true to his commitment.

And I said earlier, I want to thank Senator Schumer for being a tremendous advocate, leader and partner, who never, ever gave up.

And I want to thank every single person who has spent their time and energy coming here again and again over these many years, to advocate for this bill and for their brothers and sisters.

I ask that every Senator have empathy, just that bit of care for someone else, vote yes on this bill, and stand by our first responders.

I also want to urge every colleague of mine to reject the amendments that are being put forward. 

First, the amendment from my colleague from Utah.

Unfortunately, this amendment would only accomplish one thing:

It would make these first responders have to go through this entire process again, in just a few years.

It would force sick and dying police officers, firefighters, and other 9/11 first responders to waste even more of their precious time coming here – away from their families, away from their loved ones, from their cancer treatments, from their last moments in their homes and communities – traveling back and forth to Washington, lobbying, lobbying Congress to pass the bill for the fourth time.

Do not fall into this trap.

Our 9/11 heroes deserve this program as it is written in the bill, without these amendments, which will only force them to have to come back here again, and again.

Stand up for our heroes. End the games. Let’s reject this amendment, pass the bill, let our heroes go home and live in peace where they can breathe, and finally exhale.

I yield the floor to my colleague from Utah.