Kentucky’s junior senator was one of two lawmakers who voted against a measure Tuesday that ensures the fund to help 9/11 victims and first responders never runs out of money.
Republican Rand Paul said he couldn’t “in good conscience” vote yes, because of his fiscal conservative beliefs that federal spending must be curtailed.
“While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded,” Paul tweeted after the Senate vote. “We have a nearly trillion dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control.”
The Senate approved money for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which extends the program through 2090, by a 97-2 vote. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined Paul in voting against the measure.
The program is aimed at helping first responders and others who have been plagued by health problems following the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office say the costs to pay the outstanding claims and future claims would be $10.2 billion over the next decade.
“As I have done on countless issues, including disaster relief and wall funding, I will always take a stand against borrowing more money to pay for programs rather than setting priorities and cutting waste,” Paul added in a tweet.
Paul has been feuding with Senate Democrats and advocates for 9/11 victims for the past several days.
Chief among them has been comedian Jon Stewart, who slammed Paul as a hypocrite for his earlier blocking of the proposal because of spending concerns. The former “The Daily Show” host noted Paul supported the Republican tax cuts, which reports have said fueled a historic rise in the deficit.
In 2017, Paul expressed misgivings about the GOP tax cut plan but ultimately supported the measure. The CBO has estimated the total cost of the tax cut bill is $1.9 trillion.
“Pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling,” Stewart said. “The people from the state of Kentucky … deserve much better.”
Read more: Compensation fund for 9/11 responders passes Senate, goes to Trump
Paul returned fire in a separate interview, calling Stewart a “guttersnipe” who was misrepresenting his position.
A Paul spokeswoman told the Courier Journal the earlier move to hold up a vote on the victim’s fund is a normal Senate procedure in order to have a debate on his amendment, which looked to reduce spending to pay for the measure.
But Paul’s amendment was overwhelmingly rejected ahead of the final vote by a 77-22 margin, including a “no” vote from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also of Kentucky.
McConnell was also briefly the focus of Stewart’s ire when some advocates worried the 9/11 bill was in jeopardy. But after Tuesday’s vote, some thanked Kentucky’s senior senator for his role in getting the measure through.
“To Mitch McConnell, he kept his word to me,” John Feal, a 9/11 first responder, said at a press conference after the vote. “While I don’t always agree with his politics, he was honest and he was sincere and everything he said, he did. So, I thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
Feal is founder and president of the Feal Good Foundation, which helps those affected by the terror attack receive proper health care.
“As for Rand Paul and Mike Lee, told you so,” he said.