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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that it be in order at any time, without intervention of any point of order, to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 2882) to provide for the expedited payment of certain benefits for a public safety officer who was killed or suffered a catastrophic injury as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty in connection with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; that the bill be considered as read for amendment; that the previous question be considered as ordered on the bill to final passage without intervening motion except; 1, one hour of debate, equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary or their designees; and, 2, one motion to recommit; and that the chair may, notwithstanding the order of the previous question, postpone further consideration of the bill to a time designated by the Speaker.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Wisconsin?
There was no objection.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the order of the House just agreed to, I call up the bill (H.R. 2882) to provide for the expedited payment of certain benefits for a public safety officer who was killed or suffered a catastrophic injury as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty in connection with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of H.R. 2882 is as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. EXPEDITED PAYMENT FOR HEROIC PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS.
Notwithstanding the limitations of subsection (b) of section 1201 or the provisions of subsections (c), (d), and (e) of such section or section 1202 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796, 3796a), upon certification by a public agency that a public safety officer employed by such agency was killed or suffered a catastrophic injury as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty as described in section 1201(a) of such Act in connection with the rescue or recovery efforts related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance shall authorize payment to qualified beneficiaries, said payment to be made not later than 30 days after receipt of such certification, benefits described under subpart 1 of part L of such Act (42 U.S.C. 3796 et seq.).
SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.
For purposes of this Act, the terms ``catastrophic injury'', ``public agency'', and ``public safety officer'' have the same meanings given such terms in section 1204 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796b).
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. WEINER) each will control 30 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER).
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks on H.R. 2882, the bill currently under consideration.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Wisconsin?
There was no objection.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation provides for payments to be made within 30 days to officers and their families under the Public Safety Officers Benefits of certification of a public agency that a public safety officer was killed or suffered a catastrophic injury as a result of a personal injury in the line of duty of rescue or recovery efforts related to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The Public Safety Officer's Benefit Act provides benefits to public safety officers and their families for injury or death on duty. The program was established in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, as amended. The program provides a lump sum benefit to survivors of Federal, State, and local public safety officers whose death and disability was the direct and proximate result of traumatic injuries sustained in the line of duty. The current lump sum payment is approximately $175,000 in the case of death. The program offers aid and allows for such sums as may be necessary.
The purpose of this resolution is simple and clearly warranted: that is, to provide swift aid and comfort to the survivors of the public safety officers who perished in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Their loss and the loss incurred by the New York City fire and police departments is unfathomable.
The bravery exhibited by these men and women was of the greatest magnitude, and was the embodiment of noble service to our Nation and to the citizens of this country.
One wonders where these firefighters and police officers mustered the strength and courage to withstand dozens of stories to battle the raging fire above, all along the way directing and calming thousands of people desperately trying to flee the deadly danger above.
In the towers and on the ground, New York City public safety officers were unflinching in carrying out their mission of saving and protecting thousands of people who now owe their lives to these devoted officers. Because of their dedication to duty, many officers made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow citizens. May God bless their souls and their families. They will never be forgotten, and their heroism will always be cherished by a grateful Nation, State, and city.
Having said this, let me express my concern that paperwork might result in the delay in the payment of these benefits to families who desperately need the incomes now that a breadwinner is no longer with them.
State law usually governs how a person who is missing is declared dead. This is not done by Federal law. The legislation before us today, as well as the law that has been on the books for over 30 years, requires an appropriate certification of death.
Let me urge the Governor and legislature of the State of New York that if there does need to be an amendment to the law to allow for appropriate certification, including but not limited to the issuance of an official death certificate, to take prompt action so that these certifications can be made and the payments issued to the families of the police officers and firefighters who perished in the line of duty.
This concern, however, for me, is not limited just to this bill, because there are literally thousands of people who are missing in the fire and collapse of the World Trade Center whose families will be waiting for insurance proceeds even though they are not police officers and firefighters; and there the same type of certification is needed so that the payments can be made to the beneficiaries under those policies. I would certainly hope that the law would be able to respond to this tragedy so that these payments can be made promptly rather than having months or perhaps even years of litigation before a certificate issues and the payment is to be made.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
First, I offer the thanks of our city to the many Members of the House, particularly the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, who has spoken so eloquently. Many of us just returned this morning and more than a few of my constituents commented how heartening and reassuring it was to see Members come to the well yesterday for hours talking about their expressions of sympathy and support.
My colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. CROWLEY), and I late last night visited ground zero and we saw a sight that was at once horrific and frankly heartening. We saw mounds of rubble, maybe the size of this building, that were tombs for some of the bravest New Yorkers and bravest Americans. These were men who perished, many of them my constituents. Over 100 families in just one small part of my district were where firefighters and police officers had lived.
At the same time people were furiously running downstairs to escape what was described in the newspapers as 1,000 to 2,000 degree heat, heat sufficient to melt the columns of the World Trade Center, to melt through the insulation on the beams. These firefighters were running up those stairs, as the chairman mentioned. Some of them were seen on the 80th floor. And to give my colleagues an idea of what a firefighter carries on his back and on his person when he goes into battle, it is weight akin to me. It is like carrying a human being all the way up those stairs. And they did so not because they were naive about the dangers that they faced; it is because they recognized the dangers that their fellow New Yorkers faced, and they were going to do everything possible to see them protected.
We say it at times like this, that these are true heroes because they go to the most dangerous jobs without flinching. But to be honest, everywhere in this country, every night as we lay down our heads to sleep and we tuck our children in and we say our evening prayers and we think about what we are going to do the following day, at those very same hours there are men and women all over this country who stay up all night waiting to hear a bell go off, or a siren go off; and then they run to help us. They do not know us.
To see these men now at this site that are digging through this rubble, they are looking for their best friends, looking for their brothers, looking for their fathers in some cases. We lost one of the highest-ranking fire officials in the city. We lost a priest who serviced the men in the fire department when a body fell on him from stories above. These are people who every day do these things on our behalf. Their families send them off to work hoping that they will see them when they come back, and they do incredible work.
Well, now, in New York City, we have over 300 families, by last count, who are not going to see their husbands, their fathers, their children again; and this is a measure that I think is needed in some small way to help expedite the benefits to these families. But make no mistake, my colleagues, the worst is yet to come for those families. We have an ability now, as we must, to try to do what we can to ease the suffering, and then we will go on. Our lives will be put back together again. We will remember those horrific images.
I can say assure my colleagues of one thing, as Mayor Guiliani told us late last night, and we agree with 100 percent, and I speak for all of my New York colleagues, we are going to rebuild the city. We will be a better and stronger city, and we will be a better and stronger country. But those families have lost someone that they are not going to be able to replace. There is not a day that will go by that they will not remember that. And I also hope there is not a day that goes by that all of those survivors that got out of there, and who saw those men running up the stairs as they were running down, I hope they remember as well the great heroism.
Tonight and nights after, as we retire for the evening and as we say a little prayer for the safety and health of our families, let us also say a prayer for those men and women that look over our shoulders every day in communities large and small all throughout this community.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. KING).
Mr. KING. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and I want to totally identify myself with the remarks of my colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WEINER).
The fact is that the firefighters, the police officers in the City of New York
have performed heroic service above and beyond any call of duty. And while Tuesday is a day which will live in infamy in this country, the fact is at the same time it showed the great spirit of New York, the great spirit of America, and the particularly great spirit of the men and women of the New York City Police Department and Fire Department. They responded in a way which is unprecedented, unparalleled, and demonstrated their true commitment to what they believe in, and that is the safety and welfare of all New Yorkers, all Americans, and all people.
I would say that their courage stands in stark contrast to the behavior of those who attacked our city in such a cowardly fashion. So I think this legislation is absolutely essential. There are many people, and all of us from New York, who know people killed. Certainly Father Judge, the chaplain, was a friend of mine, and another young man, Michael Boyle was a very good friend of mine, and I would say at this time we must commit ourselves to those men who gave their lives.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from New York (Mr. CROWLEY).
Mr. CROWLEY. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from New York, all my colleagues from New York, and my colleagues from around the country.
Mr. Speaker, first let me commend my colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. NADLER); the Speaker of the House, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. HASTERT); the Democratic leader, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. GEPHARDT), for the leadership displayed here in this House over the past few days and for moving this legislation so expeditiously to the floor.
I rise today to speak with a very heavy heart and a tightened throat. Our Nation has suffered a terrible blow. Yesterday, I, along with my colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WEINER), as mentioned before, visited the epicenter, or ground zero as it has been called, of this monstrous crime. As I stood in a crater of what was once a grand and majestic building, I was looking into the heart of a criminal, of a cold thing and of an awful thing. But I also saw a picture of the American heart and of the American nature, that of the New York Police Department, Fire Department, and emergency rescue technicians.
These men, who did not and have not faltered for even one second, were and continue to fight tirelessly to find any person who may have been lost and is yet still alive. My cousin, John Moran, who I spoke of not too long ago on this floor, is one of those men.
John is an amazing man. He is a battalion chief, a lawyer, and a second generation fireman. His father, my uncle, was also a fireman. His brother Michael is a fireman. John is a wonderful husband and the father of two small children, beautiful boys. He understands the risks, and he understands what he might be losing, yet he continues to put his life in harm's way to save others day in and day out.
This past Tuesday, while trying to rescue others at ground zero, my cousin became one of the missing. He was one of more than 300 firemen and police officers and technicians to die or go missing that day. We have also lost Reverend Michael Judge, a personal friend of mine, who was the chaplain of the fire department; Chief of the New York Fire Department's Special Operations Command, who was my cousin's immediate superior, Ray Downey; Bill Feehan, first deputy commissioner of the fire department, a wonderful man; and Peter Ganci, chief of the New York City Fire Department.
In Woodside, the area I represent, we lost two firefighters on Father's Day from Rescue Company 4, and we add to that people who are missing, seven individuals, some of whom are my friends: Captain Brian Hickey, Lieutenant Kevin Dowdell, Lieutenant Terrance Farrell, Firefighter Peter Nelson, Firefighter Peter Brennan, Firefighter William Mahoney, Firefighter Durell Persall. Rescues 1, 2, 3, and 5 also sustained casualties. I also have friends who are missing: Firefighter Michael Dee. My understanding is that Firefighter Mike Weinberg from my neighborhood has been found. Another friend, from the Rockaways, Walter Heinz, is also missing.
The Bible says, ``Be brave, my child; the Lord of heaven and earth grant you joy in place of this sorrow of yours.'' And so this is our solace. But I ask all Americans to honor those whose bravery, so great, cost them all their earthly pleasures by caring for those they leave behind.
This bill provides an expedited payment of $151,000 to the families of the brave men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. It is one small way that we can help families cope with this tragic loss, by providing families with the financial assistance to pay for colleges, to continue paying their mortgages and to continue onward.
Let us create a legacy for those brave men and women. We have suffered tremendously in New York City. We have not only the loss of firefighters and police officers and technicians, but the loss of life itself of so many of our constituents and citizens. This is the least we can do for those who served. While men and women were screaming to get out of the building, these men and women were rushing into the building to try to save lives.
Yesterday, the Governor of New York asked a fireman why he would risk his life, and the firefighter told him, ``What else do you expect? I'm a New Yorker.'' God bless America, the land of the free, and the home of the bravest and the finest.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY).
Mrs. LOWEY. My colleagues, we have experienced this week some of the darkest moments in our Nation's history, and yet in the midst of this horrible and unspeakable loss that our Nation suffered, thousands of brave men and women stepped forward risking, and indeed sacrificing, their own lives to rescue and save their fellow Americans.
The stories we have heard from our colleagues today are only the beginning. Thousands and thousands of families are suffering, not knowing. This is just the beginning.
So today, colleagues, we have the opportunity to offer one small gesture of thanks, to let the families of the firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers who gave their lives know that the American people and the United States Congress are profoundly grateful for their sacrifice.
The gentleman from New York (Mr. NADLER), who is on his way to the Capitol, had this horror occur in his district in New York City. He has introduced this legislation to provide for the expedited payments of benefits for public safety officers who were killed or suffered catastrophic injuries in the line of duty while responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11. It is simply unconscionable that the families of men and women who gave so much at such a difficult and horrific time should now have to struggle to receive government benefits that are so obviously due.
Even as we mourn and grieve today, we must appreciate that Americans did not hide, nor did they cower in the face of adversity and brutal assault. Rather, we banded together and worked feverishly to save every life that could be saved. While thousands of Americans donated blood and food and shelter to the victims of these attacks, no Americans gave more than the public safety officers who this legislation would benefit.
In the face of the unthinkable, there is only so much that we can do to thank these noble citizens. This legislation is only a start and cannot compare to the loss of life for their families, but it is an important one. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this legislation honoring our Nation's bravest heroes.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. ISRAEL).
Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise with a profound sense of humility, first and foremost, to offer my condolences and prayers to our colleague and above all our friend, the gentleman from New York (Mr. CROWLEY) and to offer our love to the gentleman and his family.
Mr. Speaker, in my district we have lost, too, many firefighters. I have spoken with the families, and the last thing in the world they have need to worry about right now is their finances. This legislation is vital to
them at this dark hour of their lives. They should not be worried about red tape or bureaucracy or paperwork.
I believe it brings great honor on this House that Republicans and Democrats, from New York to California, would rise together to do the right thing by these families who have suffered so deeply, and to express our commitment to them by passing this bill and by continuing to pray for all of them.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. HINCHEY).
Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER), for expediting this legislation and bringing it to the floor so quickly.
As we all know, on Tuesday morning we witnessed the greatest assault on the Nation in our history. But since then, we have also seen examples of some of the greatest bravery and some of the most compassionate people that we have seen also in the history of our great country.
With this legislation, we begin the process that we will be involved in as a Congress in participating in the healing that must take place both for the city of New York and for the people who live there. With this legislation, we recognize the great bravery and heroism that was displayed by the municipal officers of that city, police officers, fire officers, port authority policemen and others.
Mr. Speaker, it is appropriate, obviously, that we do so; and in this small way, with a small gesture, we provide some of the financial support that their families who were left behind justly deserve.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, how much time remains on our side?
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LATOURETTE). The gentelman has seventeen and one-half minutes.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. WATSON).
Ms. WATSON of California. Mr. Speaker, I commend the gentleman from New York (Mr. NADLER) for bringing this bill to the floor and join my colleagues from New York and other places in the extensions of sympathy.
Over the past few days, many of us have spoken up to commend public safety personnel across the country for their bravery, to thank them for their tireless efforts, and to offer our condolences for the loss of their colleagues. Their courage in the face of danger and ongoing struggle under the burden of great fatigue has given our Nation hope in otherwise bleak circumstances.
It indeed was a 911 emergency call. But words cannot match the sacrifices of the police, fire and rescue personnel who have paid the dearest price for their valor. We owe it to them and to their families that we provide the injury and survivor benefits promised to them, in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.
By passing this bill, we will in Congress match our words of thanks with real actions to support the men and women on the front lines of their struggle.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to pass this bill without delay.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. STUPAK), the head of the Law Enforcement Caucus here in Congress.
Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation to expedite the benefits for the public safety officers who were killed or injured as a result of the horrific events of September 11. I commend the members of the Committee on the Judiciary, the chairman and the ranking member on this side for bringing this legislation forward.
As the founder and the co-chair of the Law Enforcement Caucus, we are constantly reminded, and having been a police officer, I have witnessed the hard work and dedication and sacrifice of our Nation's public safety officers that they take in day in and day out to make this world safer.
Mr. Speaker, every time we have a bill on the floor, we hear the old cliche about how they put their lives on the line every day for us. Unfortunately, that is true.
Mr. Speaker, on September 11, and every day since then, we have witnessed, whether through watching the buildings collapse or just seeing the news coverage, we witness the dedication and courage of the public safety officers and emergency medical responders who responded to the emergencies in New York and northern Virginia and Pennsylvania, wherever it may be.
We in the Law Enforcement Caucus, since I have been here, have been fighting to make sure that there are survivors' benefits, education benefits. We regret that today we have to stand here and try to expedite benefits for hundreds of those public safety officers who gave their lives to try to assist all those people who were in need of maybe just a helping hand or a friendly face as they struggled to get out of the danger they were in.
By expediting these benefits we in Congress, we in the Law Enforcement Caucus, remind the people throughout this great Nation of the work and dedication and courage of public safety officers, but also during their time of need as they are each and every day for us in our time of need, that we stand ready to assist them.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. WEINER) for bringing this bill to the floor, and I hope everyone in this Caucus and Congress supports this legislation.
Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. MORAN).
Mr. MORAN of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in very strong support of this legislation which will seek to ease a small part of the intolerable burden which has been placed on families of public safety officers who have been lost or injured in their heroic efforts to rescue the victims of Tuesday's attacks.
Currently the Department of Justice provides a one-time payment benefit of $100,000 to these families. However, the paperwork involved in processing them can be complicated and unnecessarily time-consuming involving months of delays. As unbelievable as it may sound, in order to be approved, the victims' families are required to provide autopsy reports and proof that he or she did not suffer from a preexisting injury that may have contributed to their death.
When this legislation is passed, the families of these victims will not have to endure this heart-wrenching process. Instead, once the Federal Government has certified that the public safety officer has gone down in the line of duty, the victim's family will automatically receive their benefit. There will be no bureaucratic or unnecessary delays in this process.
In Arlington County, I am proud to say that countless numbers of people have assisted in the Herculean effort to rescue the victims of the Pentagon disaster. When I called to ask for a specific number of officers injured in the line of duty, I was told those figures were not available because of the outpouring of assistance. Officers from all over the area have been rushing to help without bothering to sign in or be accounted for.
By passing this legislation today, we will help ensure that victims' families will not have to needlessly suffer should the very worst happen.
Mr. Speaker, more public safety officers were lost in the attack on the United States Tuesday than any other single event in modern history. Expediting assistance is one small way we can help families cope with this loss and take advantage of this benefit without undue burden or delays. Without question, more needs to be done in response to Tuesday's cataclysmic events, but this is a good first step in helping some of the victims' families; and I urge my colleagues to unanimously support this legislation.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I am not a New Yorker, but what happened at the World Trade Center in New York could have happened anyplace in the country, because terrorism knows no boundaries. It could have happened in Milwaukee or San Francisco or Atlanta or anyplace else.
Americans throughout our land, as well as people around the world, witnessed in horror what unfolded on Tuesday morning. First one building was hit, then a second building was hit, then both of the buildings collapsed, and there were hundreds or thousands of people who were in them.
But over and above everything, the public safety officers in New York, the firefighters and the police officers, were unflinching in doing their duty, which was to try to save lives and to protect property. Over 200 of them are now reported as missing and presumed dead. We could be talking about the Milwaukee police and fire department or San Francisco police and fire department or the police and fire department of any community in the country, but New York was the city that was hit.
It is our responsibility to make sure that the families of the fallen receive the benefits that the Federal Government has extended to them for over 30 years as quickly and as promptly as possible. They will suffer enough pain with the loss of their loved ones. They should not be financially strapped because paperwork does not get done quickly.
This bill is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do for New York today, and it would be the right thing to do for public safety officers who perish in large numbers as a result of a tragedy anyplace else in the country at any time in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WEINER. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I reiterate my thanks to the chairman, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER), and all of the Members of this body who have demonstrated their support, and to all of their constituents throughout this country who have been deluging New Yorkers with their demonstrations of support. The stand we take here on behalf of firefighters is done so on behalf of all Americans.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from New York (Mr. NADLER), the sponsor of the bill, for the purpose of allocating time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LATOURETTE). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York?
There was no objection.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. SENSENBRENNER) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. WEINER). I have just returned from spending time with my fellow New Yorkers to introduce this legislation.
I must say, when I was going up to New York from Washington, going up by train, usually the first thing I see 20 miles away is the World Trade Center, the twin towers, and it gives me a good feeling, like a welcome home. This week, going up on the train from 20 miles away, no twin towers, no World Trade Center, only a huge plume of smoke stretching down the Jersey shore, and my guts felt like they were being torn out.
I take no pride in introducing this legislation, and if ever there were a bill I drafted I wish were not needed, this would be it.
Like so many Americans, I wait to hear from friends and colleagues who were in lower Manhattan when tragedy struck early Tuesday morning. With each passing hour, hope wanes; and we cannot help but feel more empty inside.
But through all of this death and destruction, there are some glimmers of hope. All across this country, men, women and children are coming together, to volunteer their services, to donate supplies, and to donate their blood, and even in many countries abroad. Even more moving are the numerous accounts witnesses have relayed of the heroic and fearless actions of the region's firefighters and police officers as they rushed up to the inferno that the World Trade Center had become as thousands of civilians rushed out. Putting the safety and well-being of others well above their own, public safety officers performed the most courageous acts; but, sadly, probably about 300 New York City firefighters and EMS workers and EMT volunteers and people paid with their lives as well as 60 or 70 New York City and Port Authority police officers.
According to the International Association of Firefighters, more public safety officers were lost in this attack on the United States than any other single event in modern history. In New York City, we normally lose four to five firefighters in a year. On one day, on Tuesday, we lost about 300.
When a public safety officer dies in the line of duty, his or her family receives a one-time benefit payment. The paperwork involved, unfortunately, is often long, arduous and time consuming. Just as our public safety officers stand up for us, we must now stand up for them in this time of tragedy. This legislation directs the Department of Justice to expedite the payment process for the families of those affected by Tuesday's events. Expediting assistance is one small way we can help families cope with this tragic loss and take advantage of this important benefit without undue burdens or delays. Of course, much more needs to be done in response to Tuesday's events. I stand ready to work with all of my colleagues to address this crisis in a timely and comprehensive manner.
I urge all my colleagues to vote for this legislation as the first step. We will take other steps. This country will make the criminals who committed this act of war against the United States and against civilization rue the day they were born. But this is our first step. I thank my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. OWENS).
(Mr. OWENS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. OWENS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to urge all of my colleagues to join us in taking this step that Members of Congress can take. There are a lot of things we cannot do. I am proud of the fact that so many Americans have responded in doing the things that they can do. They can give blood, and they are giving blood from all over the country. You can do that.
There are some things that we can do in Congress without having additional information, without a great deal of planning. We can make it easier for those who have paid the supreme price, for the families of those who have paid the supreme price, to at least know certain things are taken care of while they contend with their own grieving.
The stories are numerous of eyewitness accounts. One that stands out in my mind most is the one, and I have been riveted to the television and heard many of them, the account of the young man on the 85th floor who came down the steps. He said that the biggest difficulty they encountered was at the 34th floor when they encountered firemen who were coming up and who were so exhausted because of the gear they were carrying until one of them almost passed out. They stopped to help the firemen. They were going out. And I think that those who gave those accounts got out safely, but I am certain that the firemen they encountered are among those firemen who perished there.
That kind of heroism, we should all salute and support by taking the steps that we can take here in Congress to make life as easy as possible for their families.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. PASCRELL).
Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, in what may very well be remembered as our Nation's most deplorable tragedy, our American family has stood firm. Amid the carnage and the destruction, amongst the pain and the anguish, our public safety officers performed their duties the way no fictional hero in Hollywood could dare imagine. Our police officers and firefighters, EMTs, along with countless other Americans in support roles are always there for us. Let us make sure that we, as their family, are there for them. Fire officials have said that over 300 firefighters are currently missing or dead. Dozens of police officers and other emergency workers are still unaccounted for. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has said it has lost so many employees.
To my buddies in the New York fire department and to my friends in the New York police department, we share in your grief. God only knows what else we will hear in the days ahead. God only knows how many children will arrive home only to discover that their brave mother or father has perished while serving their country. Let us make sure that these families are served by us, not only with our undying admiration and appreciation but also with our tangible support.
I implore my colleagues to support the gentleman from New York's bill. Payment to the families of public safety officers lost in the line of duty, our first defenders, should be mandatory. Now is not the time for long and time-consuming paperwork. Now is not the time for these families in their time of crisis and need to worry about their finances. Let us do right by our American family. Let us ensure that the Public Safety Officer Program operates effectively and efficiently.
On behalf of all of my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, I want to say thank you to all of those who have served on this most solemn of tragedies. We are with you. We are with America, our family.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by again thanking the gentleman from Wisconsin for helping to expedite this bill so that it is before us today and hopefully will pass this body and the other body also today. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I want to make clear, I want to emphasize that this legislation, one of the good points about it is that it makes the funds that are necessary available immediately as an entitlement not subject to appropriations, so we do not have to worry about the appropriation process.
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, I want to express my confidence that the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury will join the Congress in treating the families of these heroic public servants, these heroic police officers, fire officers and emergency medical technicians and so forth, in treating their families with the respect they are due from a grateful Nation and will speed the help that they need and deserve as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, let me again simply say that I regret that I was not on the floor yesterday to speak or vote on the resolution. I was up in New York in my district which includes the World Trade Center dealing with some of the problems, some of the people, and touring the site. It is a gut-wrenching site. But let me express my confidence that New York and the United States will recover from this. We are a resilient people. We will recover from this. We will build anew. The terrorists who did this, the nations behind them, will pay a heavy price, and this act of war will not go unpunished. And we will wage war until this scourge of terrorism is eradicated from the face of our planet.
Mr. Speaker, I urge the passage of this bill. I thank the body.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the gentleman from New York (Mr. NADLER) for recognizing this paperwork problem and drafting legislation to cut the red tape and to make sure that these payments are made to the appropriate beneficiaries in the earliest possible manner.
Let me tell the Justice and Treasury Departments that if I hear of any delay in expediting these payments, I am going to be all over their back just as the gentleman from New York and other Members of this House will be on their back as well. This has to be a priority, and this Congress is stating that this has to be a priority through the passage of this bill today.
I am very pleased to support the efforts of the gentleman from New York (Mr. NADLER). And I am supporting it because I am an American and because this is the right thing to do.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise in the utmost support of H.R. 2882. This legislation is designed to assure expedited payments of benefits to public safety officers who were killed or suffered injuries in the line of duty while responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
It is centrally important that this nation proceed hand in hand with the rule of law while confronting this catastrophe. We must assure, above all else, that our actions are not those of a vengeful nation. Instead, we must act with the conviction and certainty that the laws created under our Constitution allow.
In order to accomplish this goal, we must make sure that we pay adequate attention to the human issues involved in this tragedy. By assuring that the officers whom we have praised for their selflessness and contributions to stability receive the benefits they deserve in the most expeditious manner possible, we demonstrate our deep gratitude for their efforts.
The legislature respects the rule of law by facilitating the civility of the Federal government toward those citizens we rely on in times of crisis. H.R. 2882 also pays homage to the legacies of those fallen public safety officers by making it easier for their spouses and family members to collect the benefits they are entitled to.
Many of the brave men and women who were first to respond to the events at the World Trade Center are no longer here to witness the cheers of citizens urging service personnel on to find their friends and loved ones. They are not among us to hear the pronouncements and salutations world leaders have provided recognizing their supreme sacrifice. This legislation ensures that these statements are not empty gestures. It places the priority of thee fallen citizens--to provide safety and security for their families and friends--at the forefront of our remembrance.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to support this legislation, and I am proud that this Congress has chosen to move so quickly to assure these families receive the support they deserve.
Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2882, the Public Safety Officer Benefit Bill.
Several hundred fire, police and rescue personnel lost their lives on Tuesday, September 11th simply doing their jobs: protecting the lives of New Yorkers. This legislation, today, will enable us to provide the families of these heroes with some small compensation for the lose of their loved one. While we can never give them back the sister, or husband or brother or son that they lost, at least we can spare them the indignity of having to produce mountains of paperwork in order to obtain this benefit.
Today's bill is an excellent improvement to current law and I would urge my colleagues to wholeheartedly support it.
Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker I rise today in full support of H.R. 2882 expeditiing payments to the families of the brave public safety officers killed or injured in the line of duty during the heinous acts of terrorism against the United States which occurred on September 11, 2001. Our nation owes these heroic men and women our deepest gratitude and we extend to their families our sincerest and heartfelt sorrow for their loss. As our Nation stoically comes to grips with the shocking enormity of these attacks, our brave public safety officers remain on the front line of the massive search and rescue efforts underway. They are leading the tireless search for our fellow citizens and for their fallen comrades. At this time of national tragedy, let us acknowledge the ongoing sacrifices that our Nation's brave public safety officers continue to selflessly endure in the name of freedom and humanity. And may the ultimate sacrifice of their comrades never be forgotten. We pray for the safety of our public safety officers and the safe return of their fellow officers who remain missing. I urge my colleagues to fully support this bill.
Mr. FORBES. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this important legislation that will provide much needed assistance to the brave men and women who have been leading our search and rescue efforts.
The tragic violence of two days ago has been a test of our resolve and our determination as a nation. We have more than met this test--we have passed it with flying colors, showing our enemies that we will not succumb to their messages of hatred, of violence, and of fear. All across American, we have witnessed proud displays of patriotism, courage, and compassion at prayer vigils and blood drives, through words of encouragement and individual acts of heroism.
No one has displayed this incredible bravery and selflessness like the fire, rescue, and police personnel that have put their lives on the line in the hopes of saving those who were the victims of these heinous attacks. From all corners of our great nation, volunteers are pouring into Western Pennsylvania, New York City, and Arlington, Virginia to aid their fellow public safety workers and to keep the rescue efforts going around the clock. Regrettably, many of these same men and women are among the lists of those that we have lost or that are missing. Our hearts go out to their families, who have made a tremendous sacrifice so that others might live.
Mr. Speaker, we can and should do all that we can to provide aid and comfort to these heroes and to the families that have suffered loss in the line of duty. H.R. 2882 is the very least we can do for them. It will expedite payments for those that are killed or suffered a catastrophic illness as a result of their actions here. It cannot replace the father, son, or husband that is killed; it cannot mend the extraordinary physical and mental harm they endure; but it can ease at least one aspect of this horrible experience.
Our first responders are our front line defense to violence on our shores. These brave men and women have made us all proud and
lifted our hearts during this trying time. Their heroic acts remind us that the soul of America is vibrant and strong. I am proud to do my part to support them today. I urge my colleagues to make passage of this legislation unanimous.
Mrs. McCARTHY of New York. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution offered by the gentleman of New York, Mr. NADLER.
As this week's horrific events unfolded, I watched brave firefighters, law enforcement and rescue personnel risking their lives to save others.
I watched hospitals prepare for the wounded and our armed forces go on high alert.
I watched a stricken nation respond by rushing to donate blood and volunteer their time to help the injured. These are acts of honor and bravery that no barbaric act of violence can penetrate.
Unfortunately, many of our brave rescue personnel perished in the line of duty.
My condolences and prayers go out to the families for the loss of their loved ones.
To those people, let me say I've witnessed firsthand how individuals come together in a moment of crisis, and I can assure you the country will be there for you in your time of need.
That is why I urge members to support this important resolution and help families cope with their tragic loss, and take advantage of the Federal Public Safety Officer Benefit program without delay.
These families deserve no less in their time of grief.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the bill, H.R. 2882.
The Nation's first responders--the firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and police--are the first to arrive at the scene, and the last to leave.
As the Nation mourns the deaths of hundreds, and probably thousands, of our fellow citizens, as we take stock of the destruction caused by Tuesday's terrorist attacks, we should also pause for a moment to reflect on the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day, in every small town and suburb and big city across the country.
In passing H.R. 2882, we help ease the burden the families of these fallen heroes deserve. These brave men and women gave their lives in the line of duty in one of the most tragic events in our Nation's history. It has been reported that over 250 New York firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and police officers may have perished at the World Trade Center.
We cannot bring these people back, but we can ensure that those who survive them do not have to endure excessive paperwork to receive the benefits they deserve through the selflessness and sacrifice of their loved ones.
Many people would not be alive today if it were not for the bravery and sacrifice of these first responders. In one of the country's darkest hours, they kept faith with their colleagues, with those in need, with their country, and for that they paid the ultimate price. We have an obligation to ensure that their families get the support they need, and quickly, so that they can pick up the threads of their lives.
The Nation's first responders represent the very best of America, and we owe them and their families a debt of profound gratitude. Passing H.R. 2882 is the least we can do to bring some comfort to the families of these fallen heroes. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LATOURETTE). Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the bill is considered read for amendment, and the previous question is ordered.
The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the bill.
The bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, and was read the third time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the passage of the bill.
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 413, nays 0, not voting 17, as follows:
[Roll No. 339]
Davis, Jo Ann
Johnson, E. B.
Mr. BECERRA and Mr. STARK changed their vote from ``nay'' to ``yea.''
So the bill was passed.
The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.
Mr. TAYLOR of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I was not present for the vote on H.R.
2882. Had I been able to return from the Pentagon, I would have voted in strong support for H.R. 2882, to expedite relief for the families of law enforcement officers lost in this terrible tragedy.
Mr. McKEON. Mr. Speaker, on rollcall No. 339 I was unavoidably detained. Had I been present, I would have voted ``yea.''
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