9/11 victims group criticizes Goodlatte
New York advocates for permanently funding a 9/11 victim compensation fund unleashed blistering words Monday against U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who they claim is trying to water down funding and limit the fund to just five more years.
The New York Daily News covered the New York City rally and spared little when quoting John Feal, who they characterized as one of the nation's foremost advocates for 9/11 first responders. Feal lost part of a foot working at the World Trade Center site. His characterization of Goodlatte initially drew silence and then applause and cheers, the Daily News reported.
“I’ve been to 148 funerals. I have the right to say that,” Feal told the cheering crowd, the Daily News reported.
Under the proposal from Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the money for a five-year extension would come from an $8.9 billion forfeiture agreement with BNP Paribas SA in France, one of the world’s largest banks. The June 2014 settlement came after officials accused Paribas of violating U.S. sanctions against the Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
Goodlatte wants to use that money to renew the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The fund compensates family members of people who died in the attack on the World Trade Center or from 9/11-related illnesses as a result of being in lower Manhattan after the twin towers fell.
The legislation also would use some of the money to compensate victims of terrorist acts, including victims of the 1983 U.S. embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, and the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and the hostages held by Iran from November 1979 through Jan. 20, 1981.
Most of the Paribas settlement money went to the New York State Department of Financial Services, Manhattan district attorney’s office and the Federal Reserve System's Board of Governors, according to the Justice Department, which received $3.8 billion for a victims’ compensation fund.
Goodlatte’s bill would send $2.77 billion to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and reserve the remainder for “victims of state sponsored terrorism."
The lead sponsors of legislation to permanently reauthorize the James Zadroga Act said Goodlatte’s legislation is inadequate.
Goodlatte's bill would provide less than the $5 billion that the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund’s actuaries estimate the fund needs. Permanently renewing the fund would require about $900 million more, according to a congressional staffer involved in the legislation.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York called Goodlatte's bill “irresponsible and outrageous" and accused him of “causing distress for other victims of terrorist attacks for no reason.’’
“We have a way to pay for our bill that will be disclosed in due time that is acceptable to the Republican leadership,’’ Gillibrand said. “So we have a way to pass the bill as written and pay for it completely. So what Congressman Goodlatte has done is irresponsible.’’
Two of the lead Zadroga sponsors in the House — Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloneyand Jerrold Nadler, both of Manhattan — criticized Goodlatte for proposing his bill on the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund rather than moving the Zadroga renewal bill through his committee.
“Instead of taking up this bipartisan legislation, which would clearly pass the House, this bill was drafted and introduced with no bipartisan support or input from advocacy organizations – including the firefighters, police, and survivors the bill is intended to help,’’ Maloney and Nadler said in a joint statement. “None of us were consulted on drafting the legislation or notified that it would be introduced.”
Goodlatte would handle the funding shortfall in his bill by requiring that payments from the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund be pro-rated. His bill also would revise the geographical area in lower Manhattan covered by the fund.
The Zadroga bill, which would permanently renew both the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program, now has filibuster-proof support from 61 Senate cosponsors, Gillibrand announced Thursday.
The House version of the Zadroga bill has 237 cosponsors, more than the 218 needed for majority passage.