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Committee Passes Bill To Extend 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, Heads To House

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) -- The heroes and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks are one step closer to getting life-long medical support.

The "Never Forget the Heroes Act" passed another hurdle on Wednesday morning in Washington, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported.

One day after 9/11 first responders and advocates made emotional appeals to Congress, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to support sick survivors and extend the Victim Compensation Fund until 2090.

On Tuesday, survivors like Det. Lou Alvarez, who has stage 4 cancer, spoke about how medical support for himself and thousands of others was running out by 2020.

"I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else," Alvarez said.

New York lawmakers echoed that call.

"We are going to make the VCF permanent because there is no other choice. We have a double moral obligation to our 9/11 first responders, survivors, and their families. First, to those who ran to save lives, putting others ahead of themselves. They were selflessly there for us -- we now must be there for them. Secondly, to all those our government told it was safe to breathe the air, drink the water -- go back to work and school when it wasn't. We lied to them, and now we need to do everything we can to be there for them and make their suffering less," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. "This bill is about fulfilling our promise to 'Never Forget.' And we won't stop fighting until we guarantee that this program will be there for anyone and everyone who needs it."

"We have been calling on Washington to work with the New York State delegation to do this for years. It shouldn't even be a topic of debate, and it shouldn't get locked up as part of the usual political gamesmanship in Washington -- they need to replenish the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Though the House panel passed the bill without opposition, it still has to face a full vote on the House floor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants to see the next vote succeed swiftly.

"Those brave first responders have had to come here to testify ... to beg senators and congressmen to help them get their health care," Schumer said.

"All responders and survivors, whether they got sick in 2015 or get sick in 2025 or 2035, should be properly compensated," House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said.

The fund promises to cover medical costs of all of those first responders, volunteers and survivors who continue to fall ill, and also aims to reverse previous cuts made to financial help.

Jon Stewart breaks down in emotional testimony at 9/11 Victims Fund hearing by CBS News on YouTube

On Tuesday, comedian and advocate Jon Stewart pleaded for funds, saying the government failed citizens by telling them the air was safe to breathe and that they could go back to work and school, when in fact it wasn't safe.

"More of these men and women are going to get sick and they're going to die, and I am awfully tired of hearing that it's a 9/11, New York issue," Stewart said.

SEE IT: Emotional Moment When Jon Stewart Is Given FDNY Legend Ray Pfeifer's Bunker Coat

Officials say more than 95,000 responders and survivors are now sick. Schumer said some in Congress have felt the fund is too expensive, or that it's New York's problem.

Wednesday's unanimous vote might signal a change in that view.

The full vote is expected to be held in July.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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