9/11 responder promises 'civil disobedience' to get Congress to reauthorize Zadroga Act

Dec 7, 2015
In The News

WASHINGTON - If Congress doesn't move to reauthorize the Zadroga Act for 9/11 survivors by Thursday, a top advocate isn't going to move from Congress.

John Feal, who helped at the World Trade Center cleanup site and heads a group lobbying to renew the legislation, is threatening "civil disobedience" on Thursday if Republicans don't have the Zadroga Act in must-pass legislation by then.

"I don't plan on a sit-in. I plan on getting arrested," he told the Daily News.

"If I have to handcuff myself to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell's ankle I will," he said. "We'll park ourselves in front of the office and, yes, there will be civil disobedience. The American Congress needs to know the American people are tired and fed up. We've been shafted for 14 years."

McConnell's office - and the rest of the Republicans around Capitol Hill - continue to promise they'll renew the expired legislation, which will start running out of money in February, before they head home for the year.

But they're running out of days to get it done before the holidays.

Congress is scheduled to be in session this week and next but there's already talk around Capitol Hill about heading out after lawmakers pass the omnibus, a must-pass piece of legislation to keep the government funded.

McConnell's office is hoping they won't have to deal with Feal and the 9/11 first responders again.

"The plan is to have it in the [omnibus, but I'm not sure yet when the omni will be done. They're still working on several other issues in the bill," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told the Daily News.

The omnibus needs to be done by Friday at this point, unless Congress passes a short-term extension.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California floated the idea Monday of keeping Congress around this weekend to wrap things up and head home a few days early for some extra time heading into Christmas and New Year's.

Congress often finally gets its act together to wrap up legislation near the end of the year because once their own holiday plans start getting messed up, they finally feel pressure to act so they don't end up working through Christmas.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) was headed to a holiday party Monday where she planned to corner GOP leaders and pressure them to pass the Zadroga Act before they go home.

"I really hope it can be done by Christmas so [first responders] don't have to worry about their healthcare over the holidays," she said.

But Feal isn't in the holiday mood - and won't be until those heroes who are paying the price of responding to help their country and are paying the price with their health are given the healthcare and money they need.

"I'm tired of going to funerals and explaining to widows that help will be on the way when Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan decide to do the right thing," he said.