Members of Congress call for renewal of Zadroga Act
Members of the congressional delegations from New York and New Jersey stood outside the World Trade Center on Thursday and called on Congress to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the federal legislation that provides benefits to 9/11 victims and first responders.
"These men and women are the heroes of 9/11 and they shouldn't have to come to Congress to beg for their lives," said Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
The law set aside more than $4 billion to pay for health costs related to diseases caused by the cleanup of the site and to compensate for job and economic loss.
The bill was passed in 2011 after lengthy debate during which Republican members of Congress raised concerns about creating a new federal entitlement, and argued that caring for 9/11 victims should be a state matter, not a federal concern.
The bill ultimately passed after a significant push from New York politicians, including Rep. Peter King, who was one of only 17 Republicans to vote for the bill, and celebrities such as Jon Stewart.
"There should be no debate," King said of reauthorizing the legislation. "It has to be done."
The bill is set to expire next year, meaning first responders would lose access to health care benefits and the Victims Compensation Fund would cease.
Federal officials estimate approximately 33,000 responders, as well as survivors, have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath.
King said there is far more bipartisan support this time around.
Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he supports a reauthorization.
Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat and ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill Congress needs to pass should be permanent.
"We don't want to have to come back every five years," Pallone said. "Hopefully, we can see some action in the next few weeks."
CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of the bill. The cost is $4 billion.