Democratic lawmaker accuses Republicans of using 9/11 victims fund as 'bargaining chip'

Rep. Sean MaloneySean Patrick MaloneyThree NRA board members resign from organization Trump Jr., Guilfoyle raise .5 million on California swing for Trump campaign House Democrat on O'Rourke: 'I wouldn't count him out yet' MORE (D-N.Y.) is slamming Republicans' handling of the 9/11 Victims Compensation fund ahead of a planned House vote to extend the funding through 2090.

Speaking to Hill.TV on Friday, Maloney accused Republicans of using the fund's impending expiration as a political "bargaining chip." Congress renewed the current law in 2015, but it is set to expire in 2020.

“What they did the last time is they held it back and used it as a bargaining chip — I think that’s disgusting, frankly,” Maloney said. "Why isn’t it done yesterday — why are you going to wait until the fund expires."

“I think you ought to ask [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts MORE what is more important than this,” Maloney, whose district includes many 9/11 victims and first responders, added.

His comment comes weeks after emotional testimony from comedian Jon Stewart went viral scolding lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on legislation to renew the funding.

"They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs," Stewart said of the first responders. "Eighteen years later, do yours!"

In his Hill.TV interview, Maloney said failure to move the bill forward is one of the reasons why lawmakers and advocates have pushed for a bill that would extend through 2090, so that 9/11 survivors and first respondents will “never have to worry about this again.”

"This is a sacred duty," he said. "In my part of the world this is not some abstraction — you cannot go to a community in the Hudson Valley that has not lost neighbors and friends on 9/11 and in the years since."  

"Are you going to make these heroes come back down here one more time and beg you and sit in front of some congressional committee again, that’s outrageous," he added.

Following the backlash surrounding Stewart's testimony, McConnell vowed to take up legislation before the August recess. The bill now boasts more than 70 co-sponsors, including 24 Republicans.

A spokesperson for McConnell did not immediately respond to Hill.TV's request for comment. 

House lawmakers, meanwhile, are set to vote on legislation to authorize the funding on Friday.

Lawmakers plan to name the legislation after 9/11 first responders Luis Alvarez and Ray Pfeifer, as well as New York Police Department detective James Zadroga.

Alvarez, who developed cancer after responding to the scene at ground zero on 9/11, died on June 29 after appearing at the same hearing as Stewart.

—Tess Bonn