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Blocking 9/11 Funds Is Why Nobody Likes Rand Paul

Blocking funds for 9/11 responders because of concerns of fiscal responsibility is the most Rand Paul thing ever, and he should stop.


Nobody likes Senator Rand Paul, and it’s really his own fault. Often the dour bringer of fiscal bad news, the Kentucky Senator on Wednesday blocked a bill that would continue funding the compensation for victims of 9/11 to the tune of 10 billion dollars over the next decade. The measure easily passed the House and has the support of 74 Senators.

In a statement, Paul said that “It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in this country—we have a $22 trillion debt, we’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year. … And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable.”

“We need to at the very least have this debate. I will be offering up an amendment if this bill should come to the floor, but until then I will object.”

Paul now faces criticism from both the left and the right for his tight-fisted refusal to support the first responders and others who risked their lives in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attack. Many have pointed to his support for recent tax cuts and wondered aloud why that spending was fine with Paul, while these funds must be offset by savings elsewhere.

Honestly, this is very on-brand for Paul, who likes to paint himself as the realist willing to speak hard truths about the economy, foreign policy, healthcare and a host of other issues. But on this one, he should really just be quiet and take a back seat. At a time when Democrats and Republicans in Washington can’t agree that water is wet, Paul’s abstinence is particularly troublesome.

In a tweet yesterday Paul seemed to back off of his position a bit, but not really. His insistence on offsetting the costs of the compensation remains.

There is nothing wrong with being a deficit hawk—frankly, we could use more of those—but it’s the most Rand Paul thing ever to make his big stand on fiscal responsibility in regard to an issue that almost every person on the face of the planet disagrees with him on. This is essentially the legislative equivalent of cancelling Christmas.

In all likelihood, the bill will pass notwithstanding Paul’s objections, whether he gets his offsetting spending cuts or not. But in today’s halls of Congress, there are no guarantees. The bill could be strapped with multiple amendments that strangle its chances, so really Paul should just go along on this one and help to get the men and women who served New York City and the country after the attacks on the World Trade Center the money they need.

But ever the contrarian Paul seems to enjoy the ire he receives for his principled stands, even when everyone and their mother think he kind of being a jerk. The senator should sit this one out; there could scarcely be an issue that unifies Americans more than showing respect for and taking care of 9/11 responders. Willfully choosing to be on the wrong side of that is on-brand for Paul, but it’s also very bad form.

This political show of standing in the way of compensation may paint Paul as the true fiscal conservative in the Senate, but doing so at the potential cost of the lives of heroes is not the way to do it. Paul should find something else, anything else, to stand in the way of. His obstinance on this issue is disheartening and potentially dangerous. At a time when Congress is capable of doing so little, Paul should not make it harder for the legislature to accomplish something that almost all Americans want. But, hey, it’s Rand Paul.