September 11th first responder John Feal said he was contacted by President Trump by phone on Tuesday and told the 9/11 victims' compensation fund bill will be passed by the Senate today, and signed into law on Friday.
"The bill's going to get passed today, and the bill's going to go to the president, who's going to sign it on Friday. The White House called me this morning -- for the men and women that I keep bringing down here after 15 years, and I'm just so ecstatic for them" he said on "America's Newsroom" Tuesday.
"Listen we're not going to celebrate. We're not going to jump up and down. I'm sure we're going hug and cry. We're going to exhale. But we're going to help tens and thousands of people. Getting the legislation passed just pads the resume, but the friendships in the 9/11 community, on Capitol Hill and formed with all of you guys in the media, that's what means the most to me."
Feal claimed 20,000 victims have been given money from the government and said he expects tens of thousands more to step forward, now that additional resources will be available. He also cited the late first responder Luis Alvarez -- who passed away in June -- and was an outspoken advocate of the fund, saying 18 more people have died since his passing.
"20,000 people and change have been compensated. Another 20 are waiting. We expect another 20 to come forward with more illnesses. And these aren't just us saying this [sic]. This is what ... the CDC has predicted," he said.
"You know, Luis Alvarez, who died on June 29, sadly, 18 people have passed since Louie. All of these men and women were in the World Trade Center health program... and they too like Louie Alvarez, have passed away, So, there are over 12,000 people right now with certified cancer, so says the federal government. It is only getting worse. It's not getting better.
"And getting this bill passed is not going to save anybody's lives, but what it's going to do is offer financial relief and comfort and take away the burden and the stress... That's all it is."
Feal also said he has medical issues stemming from that fateful day, but claimed he's found his mission in life and plans to find lifelong meaning in one of the worst days he ever experienced.
"I'm blessed. I'm lucky. I lost half a foot, I spent 11 weeks in the hospital. And look at me. I'm loud, obnoxious, I'm in the face of elected officials. I've now helped pass five bills in Congress -- five in Albany, two in New Jersey, one in Michigan. And if I continue doing this the rest of my life, then I'm going to take the worst day of my life... and make the best of the rest of my life," he said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been criticized by Feal and comedian Jon Stewart, for trying to hold up the bill over fiscal concerns. Paul said it's an issue of crippling debt and claims the government can't afford to allocate more taxpayer money to extend the fund.
“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country," Paul said last week. “Any new spending we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at very least to have this debate.”
Feal said Paul and his colleague Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, were "picking and choosing" when to be fiscally responsible. He also criticized their vote on the Trump tax cut and said it should necessitate them supporting the compensation fund.
"As for Rand Paul and Mike Lee, you can't cherry-pick and choose when you want to be a fiscal conservative hawk," he said.
"They both signed on to the trillion-dollar tax cut. Whether you're for it or against it, that added to the deficit. So, by saying our bill, over 71 years, that $15 billion will add to the deficit, it's just ludicrous. It's insulting to our intelligence and shame on them. They've got to live with that."
"They're going to present amendments today, and they're going to get shot down. They're not going to get to the 60-vote threshold that they need, and we're going to get a bill... passed today, and signed on Friday. And tens of thousands of people, not just in New York -- these are people that went to the Pentagon... you know -- 433 out of 435 Congressional districts were represented at ground zero."
"Everybody from every state came to ground zero... and that's what America's about. It's the spirit of the American people. The humanity in the American people. And we all came together. And now today the Senate is going to come together and take our worst day, worst weeks, and worst months, and certainly our worst 18 years -- they're going to make it their finest hour. And they're going to pass a bipartisan bill, come together, then it's going to go to the president's desk," Feal concluded.
Fox News' Liam Quinn contributed to this report