Iraq, Afghanistan vets push for full Zadroga act extension

Nov 17, 2015
In The News

WASHINGTON -- Advocates of a permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act stepped up their campaign Tuesday by enlisting the support of veterans of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, pledged that his organization will urge lawmakers to pass the reauthorization bill.

"We are proud to join this fight," Rieckhoff said at a news conference outside the Capitol. "We're going to be on the Hill all day today."

The reinforcements came as the lawmakers entered into "very delicate negotiations" over the permanent extension legislation and a House GOP bill that renews the victims compensation program for just another five years, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said at the news conference.

The rival bill to the permanent extension emerged recently from the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

New York first responders tried to meet with Goodlatte Tuesday, but they were barred from his office and had to meet with an aide in a hallway.

Goodlatte's bill also would expand the 9/11 victims compensation program to include Americans and those who worked for them who were harmed by other acts of terrorism and who had won judgments in lawsuits against the terrorists or their sponsors.

Those victims, and 9/11 first responders and survivors, would be paid with $4 billion that BNP Paribas, a France-based banking multinational, paid as a fine when it admitted to laundering money used for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and other terrorist attacks.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the key sponsor of the Senate bill to extend the Zadroga Act, said the coalition would accept that provision.

But all prime backers of the permanent extension -- King, Gillibrand, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Manhattan Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler -- insisted they would not accept another five-year sunset for the health program or compensation fund.