Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) blocked extending healthcare benefits to 9/11 responders on Wednesday due to concerns over the national debt.
“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country,” Paul said. “Any new spending we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable.”
With Paul’s objection, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-New York) proposal to fast-track the extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) for up to 70 years is dead. However, a spokesperson for Paul told Fox News that Paul isn’t opposed to extending the VCF, but is instead proposing an alternative amendment that offsets additional spending for 9/11 first responders with spending cuts.
“Senator Paul is not blocking anything. He is simply seeking to pay for it. As with any bill, Senator Paul always believes it needs to be paid for,” the spokesperson said. “Senator Paul is simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation.”
However, Sen. Paul had no such concerns when voting to pass President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, which granted $1.5 trillion in tax cuts — most of which went to the wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the bill, 83% of the benefits outlined in the legislation would go to the richest 1% of Americans.
Oddly, when Sen. Paul was weighing a “no” vote on the Trump tax cuts, it wasn’t due to the fact that the CBO projected the legislation would lead to a projected $11.7 trillion cumulative deficit from 2018 through 2027, but that the tax cuts for the rich weren’t permanent.
“This bill is not perfect. I would prefer a larger cut… I’d like to see more permanence on the individual side,” Paul wrote in a Fox News op-ed in November of 2017.
Because the Trump tax cuts needed only 51 votes to pass under the Senate’s budget reconciliation rules (which are restricted to strictly budgetary matters), and because the bill barely passed with 51 “yea” votes including Paul, it could be argued that Rand Paul was the deciding vote in passing the $1.5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy — which didn’t include any offsetting spending cuts.
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart has been leading the charge on pushing Congress to permanently extend the 9/11 VCF. When he testified before Congress in June, he was joined by former NYPD detective Luis Alvarez, one of the 9/11 responders depended on the VCF to afford his colorectal cancer treatments. Alvarez died in hospice care on June 29, 2019, while waiting on Congress to extend the VCF once again.
(Featured image: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.