Tags: 9/11 Commemorations | ground zero | heroes | survivors | victims | fund | senate

9/11 Fund Activist: McConnell Made 'Commitment' to Survivors

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(AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 25 June 2019 06:44 PM

An emotional Ground Zero recovery worker and first-responder activist Tuesday said Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made a "commitment" to pass a bill to fund care for ailing 9/11 survivors.

McConnell later confirmed the statement to ABC News.

"We want to try to deal with (the legislation) before the August recess," the Kentucky Republican told ABC News, adding that he had a "good meeting" with the first responders and even received the shield of a retired New York City detective who now is suffering from cancer after working for weeks at the World Trade Center site.

After a meeting with McConnell, John Feal, a vocal advocate for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which is fast running out of money and is set to expire next year, said survivors intend to hold the politician to his word.

"To get the Senate majority leader's commitment means a lot," Feal said after the meeting, in video posted by Fox Business.

"They're going to get the help that they desperately deserve," he added.

"To get his commitment today . . . we're satisfied," Feal said.

"Are we happy? No," he continued, before abruptly stopping and choking back tears.

"We're going to leave here, and [cancer-stricken first responder, retired New York Police Department Detective] Luis [Alvarez] is going to die," Feal said. "We gave the Senate majority leader his badge . . . If he strays from his commitment, we'll go back to attack mode."

"I'm frustrated, I'm angry," he told reporters. "When I'm angry, I cry."

Feal was one of several first responders who appeared on Capitol Hill recently, along with comedian Jon Stewart, to push for Congress to reauthorize the fund. Stewart had called out McConnell for being a roadblock on this issue.

But Feal insisted the bill has to come up for a straight up-or-down vote without being "tied down by some bats–t crazy somebody in the middle of the country who just doesn't get it."

"They work for us," he said of Capitol Hill lawmakers. "The chairs that they put their a–es in, the pens that they use, the pads that they write on, we pay for that s–t. That's us. They work for us. Mitch McConnell works for us. He works for all of you guys. Today, Mitch McConnell promised to work for us. I'm going to take him for his word."

He also apologized for his curse words, saying: "If I don't curse, I'm gonna cry."

The $7 billion fund is being depleted and has cut benefit payments by up to 70 percent. A bill pending in Congress would ensure the fund can pay benefits for 70 years.

Jon Stewart, the former host of "The Daily Show," mocked McConnell on Stephen Colbert's late-night talk show last week, accusing the GOP leader of slow walking the legislation and using it as a political pawn to get other things done.

McConnell said last week that the issue will be addressed and that he does not know why Stewart was "all bent out of shape."

Feal called Tuesday's meeting with McConnell "one of the best meetings" he's had at the Capitol in more than 15 years of advocacy on the issue.

He and other first responders were "ready to shake hands" on a deal or "ready to get into a street fight" with the Senate leader, Feal said, adding that in the end, no drama was needed.

The Senate leader said last week that Congress has always acted in a compassionate way on the 9/11 fund, a statement Feal strongly disputed. The fund has always had a five-year sunset provision, among other problems, Feal said.

Feal told reporters that he gave McConnell "my version of what compassion is ... and I think we left the meeting now knowing what our compassion is, and he has to match that. And I think he will."

Feal, who lost part of his left foot in an accident during recovery work after the attacks, credited Stewart with raising the profile of first responders still suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses related to the attacks.

Stewart "put our 18 years of pain and suffering" in public view at a House hearing June 11, Feal said. First responders shared similar stories with McConnell at Tuesday's meeting, he said.

The bill to replenish the fund must pass the House first. Majority Democrats have promised a vote before their August recess.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A "commitment" to pass a bill to fund care for ailing 9/11 survivors was made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to an emotional Ground Zero recovery worker and first-responder activist Tuesday.
ground zero, heroes, survivors, victims, fund, senate, mitch mcconnell
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2019-44-25
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 06:44 PM
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