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Earlier this year, Rupa Bhattacharyya, special master of the fund, said it is running low on money. Although $5 billion has been awarded to 21,000 claimants, only $2.4 billion remains as the fund faces another 20,000 pending claims as the December 2020 filing deadline approaches. As a result, "benefit payments are being cut by up to 70%," the AP reported.
If approved, the Never Forget the Heroes Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., would authorize the fund through 2090 and extend the filing deadline to October 2089.
On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., defended his 14-member subcommittee, a division of the larger House Judiciary Committee, following Stewart's speech.
"All these empty chairs – that's because it's for the full committee, not because it's disrespect or lack of attention to you," he said, according to the Hill.
Two subcommittee members, bill co-sponsors Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., were not at the hearing, NBC News reported. Other members may have been "coming and going" during the meeting, a spokesman told Fox News.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said Tuesday that the bill should have no trouble passing, NBC News reported.
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– The Associated Press contributed to this report.