The Senate's top Republican said he was "delighted" to see a bill funding health benefits for 9/11 relief workers advance through Congress on Wednesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hailed the passage of a slimmed down 9/11 bill that passed unanimously on Wednesday afternoon after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) dropped his objections to the deal.
“I’m delighted the Senate was able to reach an agreement on a bill to provide healthcare for the men and women who helped in the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts after the 9/11 attacks," McConnell said, according to prepared remarks.
The GOP leader's remarks were in part an effort to deflect criticism Democrats had leveled toward Republicans for holding up the vote. Democratic leaders accused some GOP senators of trying to block health benefits for first-responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a politically charged attack on a highly emotional issue.
McConnell hailed the efforts by Coburn and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who managed to cut the bill's price tag, install safeguards against fraud and put a sunset in place on the benefits fund.
"So this is a much better product. Some have tried to portray this debate as a debate between those who support 9/11 workers and those who don’t," McConnell said. "This is a gross distortion of the facts. There was never any doubt about supporting the first responders. It was about doing it right.”