Zadroga 9/11 bill supporters, including Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, celebrate victory for first responders
WASHINGTON — The first responders and politicians who fought to reauthorize the Zadroga Act for 9/11 survivors took a victory lap Wednesday after it was included in a piece of must-pass legislation.
"I'm ecstatic. Our holiday wish came true and the survivors and responders have permanent healthcare," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who has led the fight in the House since the Sept. 11 attacks, told the Daily News. "This is why I love my work."
"This is an amazing victory," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on a conference call, hours after money for the program was officially included in the omnibus bill to keep the government open. "We're happy, we're very happy today."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, gave credit to the first responders who kept returning to Washington to guilt-trip members of Congress to reauthorize the program.
"They shouldn't have to come to Washington but they did and it's their courage and tenacity that truly made the difference on this bill," she said. "It really did make a difference. They got the job done and they reminded Congress of its moral obligation to their 9/11 heroes."
The final deal was finalized in the eleventh hour — literally. Negotiators tied up the loose ends after 11 p.m. Wednesday, according to Schumer.
And with victory all but guaranteed — the omnibus bill is expected to be approved Friday — the lawmakers who've spent more than a decade fighting for the program's creation and continuation celebrated, giving kudos to each other as well as the first responders and other advocates — like former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart — who stepped up to fight intransigent lawmakers.
"It was a long, tough fight, but it's a great victory for the cops, the firefighters, construction workers. It's more than probably we could have expected when this fight started," Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) told the Daily News. "It's a great victory. It gives insurance, piece of mind, and it's a great way to celebrate Christmas. For the first time in about two months that I won't be waking up at three o'clock in the morning [worrying about the program]."
The politicians weren't the only ones in a holiday mood — first responders' unions and a number of city officials celebrated the news on Wednesday.
"I know many SBA members and other law enforcement officers across this nation who are sick with 9/11-related illnesses are breathing a sigh of relief today that the end of a tough fight is within reach; and with it, an end to the uncertainty of whether they will have a health program next year," said NYPD Sergeant Ed Mullins, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association.