Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling it the "Fiscal Cliff," the end of the year, when in part, $110 billion in automatic deficit cuts are set to take place. It's a broad ax that will slice most areas of government, including money meant for the victims and first responders of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Our Washington bureau reporter Erin Billups has more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Just weeks after the nation memorialized the September 11th terror attacks and a federal agency announced more than 50 types of cancer would be covered by a landmark 9/11 health care bill, lawmakers are now worried there will be fewer funds to go around.
"It would be a cruel hoax to be starting people on a certain treatment and not be able to continue it," Long Island Representative Peter King said.
With no plan in place to avert the automatic deficit cuts, the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund is facing a blunt cut of $24 million in January and more than $300 million over the next five years. That's even less money available for those suffering with health problems as a result of the terrorist attacks, who are covered under a bill known as the Zadroga act.
"Certainly those that are sick and dying because of 9/11 should have the health care that they need," Manhattan Representative Carolyn Maloney said.
Congresswoman Maloney, who is lead sponsor of the Zadroga Act, along with Congressman King, are working with other members of the New York delegation to ensure the 9/11 programs are taken off the table as lawmakers begin to work on an alternative to the automatic cuts.
King said, "There's an agreement that something has to be done. Unfortunately once you get out of the New York region there's not that much concern about the 9/11 health care fund."
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the fund isn't actually adding to the nation's deficit, it's bankrolled by an international business tax.
"As I understand it, this is a total distortion of what was intended to happen," King said.
"I'm hopeful that a decision will be made that allows us to make sane decisions based on the merits and not on an across the board 7.6 percent cut," Maloney said.
While Capitol Hill is currently quiet as lawmakers hit the campaign trail, Congressional leaders have said discussions are underway to find an alternative.