Effort kicks off to make 9/11 health bill permanent
Members of Congress are being forewarned that Sept. 11 is their deadline for passing legislation to make permanent the health benefits and victims compensation funds for people who worked in the recovery and clean up at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
“After that date we will either be your BFF or your biggest pains in the asses,’’ John Feal warned members of Congress Tuesday.
The two lead sponsors of the bill — Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan – already have a dozen cosponsors in the Senate and more than 40 in the House.
With Republicans in majority control of the House and Senate, GOP support will be crucial to moving the bill. The Senate version already has Republican Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski as sponsors. And two other Republicans – Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Shelly More Capito of West Virginia – voted for the original bill in 2010 when they were members of the House.
In the House, the Republican sponsors include all seven Republicans in the New York delegation and several who represent New Jersey.
Feal, a former demolition supervisor from eastern Long Island who lost part of his foot during the cleanup at Ground Zero, intends to mobilize sickened firefighters, police officers and construction workers to make personal appeals to lawmakers to support the bill.
Feal was among the most vocal and persistent advocates for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which passed Congress in December 2010.
The 2010 legislation was the last vote prior to a new Congress taking office. In fact, the Dec. 22 House vote occurred with 168 House lawmakers not present. There was concern prior to the 206-60 vote of approval that there might not be enough lawmakers present for a legally binding quorum.
The Senate version of the bill passed by unanimous consent after earlier concerns were resolved among many Republicans about the revenue offsets to pay for the health benefits.