Volume 80, Number 29 | December 16- 22, 2010
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Pols call blocking of 9/11 bill a ‘moral outrage’
By Aline Reynolds
Members of the New York congressional delegation are desperately trying to secure the passage of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act before the new year, when the makeup of Congress will change and Republicans will gain a majority in the House. Their desperation is due to last week’s move by Republican senators who chose to enact a filibuster until the Bush tax cuts were extended across the board.
Named after New York Police Detective James R. Zadroga, the bill is designed to provide continued annual funding to healthcare centers for sick 9/11 workers, as well as those who lived and worked in the contaminated area for months after the attacks. The bill passed the House floor last September.
Last Friday, reporters and 9/11 workers huddled around a podium across from 7 World Trade Center to hear Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, co-sponsors of the House version of the bill, speak in support of its passage. Maloney and other Democrats perceive the Republicans’ opposition to the bill as a betrayal of those who sacrificed their lives and health on 9/11.
Bill Ferraro, 62, was among those at the press conference. Prior to 9/11, he had a clean bill of health. On the day of the attacks, the union ironworker, who helped build the Twin Towers in the 1960’s, rushed to the site of the attacks to help. He has since been diagnosed with silicosis and asbestosis, respiratory diseases caused by inhaling silica dust and asbestos fibers.
“This is my new friend,” said Ferraro, pulling an inhaler from his pocket.
Ferraro still works, but his limited lung capacity hampers him considerably. He and tens of thousands of other individuals were exposed to airborne toxins in the days after the attacks.
“Healthcare should not be held hostage to partisan politics,” Maloney said. Blocking Zadroga’s passage, she added, is a “moral outrage.”
Nadler said last Thursday’s vote was a punch in the face to all the workers that saved lives on 9/11.
“They said to the heroes, ‘We don’t care about you, we don’t recognize you,’ ” he said.
The politicians said that in order for Zadroga to have a chance of ever reaching President Obama’s desk, the Senate must take action immediately, before the new, Republican-dominated Congress convenes on Jan. 5.
Senators could theoretically vote on Zadroga through Jan. 4, the last day of the current Congress, with or without it being attached to the tax bill, according to Ilan Kayatsky, a Nadler spokesperson.
“The only way we can pass this bill is to pass it in this Congress, and the only vehicle that we know is guaranteed to have Republican support to pass it is the tax bill,” said Maloney. The tax-cuts bill is legislation from the Bush administration that President Obama hopes to renew.
Another option they’re exploring is attaching the bill to Congress’s annual budget resolution.
“We’re tired [of fighting], but we’re not defeated, and we haven’t given up,” said John Feal, founder and president of the FealGood Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has amassed more than $300,000 to support some 800 9/11 first responders and their families.
Passing Zadroga in conjunction with the tax cuts, Feal said, would be a bittersweet victory for the 9/11 survivors.
“The Republican Party is extorting the rest of the federal government — help millionaires over heroes.”
The bill originally prevailed in the House by a bipartisan vote of 268 to 160. If signed into law, it would reopen the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which would offer economic relief to sick 9/11 workers, students and area residents. The law would also secure continued annual funding for medical monitoring of 9/11 workers and their treatment at New York health clinics. The law, which would be funded at $7.4 million, would be fully subsidized through revenue offsets.