9/11 Responder Slams Lawmakers Objecting to Quickly Passing New Health Care Funding: 'People Deserve Better'

"Senator Paul is not blocking anything, he is simply seeking to pay for it," his office said

rand paul
Senator Rand Paul. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday objected to a Democratic effort to speedily pass a bipartisan bill extending funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Though Paul, from Kentucky, opposed New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand‘s motion to send the legislation to President Donald Trump‘s desk via unanimous consent, he said later on Twitter he did not object to the bill itself. Rather, he wanted to ensure there was at least debate on how it should be funded.

Gillibrand, a co-sponsor of the bill, criticized the move from the Senate floor.

“Enough of the political games,” she said. “Our 9/11 first responders and the entire nation are watching to see if this body actually cares.”

“Senator Paul is not blocking anything. He is simply seeking to pay for it,” his office said in a statement to PEOPLE. “As with any bill, Senator Paul always believes it needs to be paid for. Senator Paul is simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation.”

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, added a hold as well, The Washington Post reported, though his office told the paper his concern was about oversight of the new money.

In an appearance on CNN, John Feal, a 9/11 responder and advocate, had sharp words for the senators objections.

“We’re not begging. We’re demanding. We don’t beg for anything anymore,” he said. “They work for us. They should be begging for forgiveness for being a——- for the past 15 years.”

“The people from the state of Kentucky and the people from the state of Utah deserve better,” Feal said on Fox News.

The bill — “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Act,” recently renamed for several 9/11 responders — earlier passed the House of Representatives 402-12.

As Paul explained when blocking Gillibrand, “It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country. And therefore any new spending … should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate.”

If passed into law, the bill would secure funding for the VCF through 2092. It would cost about $10.2 billion in further payments over a decade, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, the Associated Press reports.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Fund officials have said the fund is running out of money more quickly than expected given the increasing number of claims from Sept. 11 survivors, responders and their families.

Gillibrand, 52, said she was “deeply disappointed” in Paul’s objection to a “desperately needed and urgent bill.”

Still, the Senate is expected to pass the bill ahead of its summer recess on Aug. 2, according to The Hill.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted they will act on the issue, which has made national headlines as responders continue to speak out about needed health care funding.

Experts say tens of thousands of responders and other recovery workers have developed health conditions, including cancer, as a result of their work in the aftermath of the attacks.

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