GOP: U.S. can't afford to fund health 'entitlement program' for 9/11 rescue workers
WASHINGTON - Republicans argued Tuesday that it would put the nation's finances at risk if Congress gave aiing Sept. 11 responders a permanent, guaranteed program to ensure they get health care.
Calling the Sept. 11 Health and Compensation Act a new "entitlement program" like Medicare, GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee argued the nation already has too much that it must pay for. They said obligating the feds for lifetime care of tens of thousands of 9/11 responders was too much of a burden.
"By making this a new mandatory program, you jeopardize the financial health of the United States of America," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).And they argued that the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, were already being cared for, noting the $150 million the Obama recently requested for this year.
Speaking to dozens of responders gathered in a Capitol Hill hearing chamber, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) argued that their demand for the federal government to help "would be just if we weren't spending money already."
"In fact, there's $131 million in the fund right now. The health care needs of first-time responders have been addressed," Shimkus declared, referring to contracts that are being spent now and were delayed by the federal government.