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House to vote on 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund bill

9/11 first responder Lou Alvarez dies at 53

The House will vote to renew the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund Friday, after powerful testimony from first responders over the past month drew attention to the fund's impending expiration date in 2020.

"I'm pleased to announce the House will vote this Friday on the Zadroga Pfeifer Alvarez 9/11 #Renew911VCF. The heroes who ran into harm's way that day deserve swift action. I thank Jon Stewart @RepMaloney @RepJerryNadler & others for their advocacy on this issue," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Twitter. The bill was named after first responders who passed away, including Luis Alvarez, who died of cancer earlier this month.

Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010, over opposition from some Republicans who balked at its $7 billion price tag. The act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. But a portion of the law — the Victim Compensation Fund — was only funded for five years, through the end of 2020.  The fund aimed to provide necessary financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including a spate of cancer diagnoses, after the 2001 attacks. 

In June, Stewart made news for his emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Stewart at times broke down in tears, shouting at the lawmakers and calling them "shameful."

"I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is ... a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one ... shameful," said Stewart at the outset of his remarks. A little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats.

Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective and 9/11 responder, also testified before the House panel.

"This fund isn't a ticket to paradise, it's to provide our families with care," said Alvarez. "You all said you would never forget. Well, I'm here to make sure that you don't," Alvarez said to a room of loud applause.

Several mourners, including Stewart, attended Alvarez's funeral earlier this month. Shortly before he died, Alvarez spoke to 9/11 about his advocacy.

"My message to Congress is: We have to get together and get this bill passed as quickly as possible," Alvarez said in an interview with "CBS Evening News" in June. "I would love to be around when it happens. The government has to act like first responders, you know, put politics aside and let's get this bill done, because we did our job and the government has to do theirs."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to hold a vote on the bill in August, which he committed to after meeting with a group of first responders.

Emily Tillett and Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report

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