A victims’ compensation fund for the 9/11 attacks has become a national focal point, and the congressman representing Fayette, Greene and Washington counties and much of Westmoreland County is part of the discussion.
U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Peters Township, is a member of a House Judiciary subcommittee that held a hearing Tuesday on reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund whose witnesses included several first responders and survivors suffering from 9/11-related illnesses.
Also giving testimony at the hearing was comedian Jon Stewart, a vocal advocate for 9/11 responders and survivors.
Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that nearly 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money.
Stewart lambasted Congress for not ensuring that the fund will continue. He pointed out a row of empty chairs facing the witnesses in the hearing room and said that “sick and dying” first responders came to the hearing only to be met with sparse attendance from lawmakers, which he called “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution.”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be,” Stewart said, “because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”
The room contains seats accommodating the full House Judiciary committee, but the hearing was held by the smaller Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Reschenthaler was one of two legislators belonging to the subcommittee who were absent from Tuesday’s hearing. The other was Eric Swalwell, D-California, who told Time magazine Tuesday that he was at the Department of Justice at the time of the hearing.
Reschenthaler’s office did not explain his absence, but did note Reschenthaler’s cosponsorship of a bill that would allocate monies for the fund through fiscal year 2090.
Reschenthaler is one of 313 cosponsors of the bill, consisting of 232 Democrats and 81 Republicans.
“(Reschenthaler) looks forward to voting for the bill today to ensure the first responders who were injured or sickened due to their brave actions on 9/11 receive the support they deserve,” his office said Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill Wednesday, and it is expected to pass the full House.
The bill would allow Victim Compensation Fund claims to be filed until Oct. 2089, require claimants to be paid for the amount by which a claim was reduced on the basis of insufficient funding and adjust the annual limit on economic loss compensation for inflation.
The fund was reactivated in 2011 and 2015, the latter reactivation allowing claims to be filed until Dec. 18, 2020.