WASHINGTON – During an emotional meeting, a group of 9/11 first responders persuaded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday to commit to passing a bill in August to reauthorize the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
In a moving moment, the advocates handed McConnell the badge of gravely ill, cancer-stricken police detective Luis Alvarez, who testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month on behalf of the bill. Alvarez is now spending his final days in hospice.
“We had a great meeting with Mitch McConnell, it was productive. Mitch McConnell made a commitment to the 9/11 community and my team leaders that he’s going to help us get a piece of legislation that’s going to be passed in the House in July for an August vote in the Senate,” John Feal, a Ground Zero worker and the founder of the Fealgood Foundation, told reporters after the meeting. “That’s way ahead of schedule.”
“Today we challenged his humanity and he passed,” Feal said of McConnell.
Alvarez testified before “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart on Capitol Hill on June 11.
House members’ poor attendance at the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing set Stewart off — and created the viral moment, which has helped the legislation get traction since.
Talking to reporters outside the Capitol Tuesday, Feal got emotional when he said what they had done.
“We’re going to leave here and Luis Alvarez is going to die and in that meeting we gave Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell Luis Alvarez’s badge,” he said.
McConnell did not commit to a stand-alone bill, but Feal speculated that with such a short timeline, that’s what would come to the floor.
In the meeting, the first responders — who represented the FDNY, NYPD and NYC Corrections — said McConnell sat with them, instead of passing them off to staff.
The Senate leader said he felt the urgency, as the current Victim Compensation Fund is running out of money and thus awards for sick survivors are being cut.
The McConnell meeting came an hour after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate, announced that it had 60 co-sponsors — meaning that it had enough votes to survive a filibuster threat and pass in the Senate.
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