Zadroga Act extension gaining momentum in House

Nov 18, 2015
In The News

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The movement to pass a permanent extension to the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act has gained momentum Wednesday, with one of the two House committees involved expressing support.

The portion of the Zadroga Act that pays for the medical expenses for those suffering from 9/11-related health conditions expired on Oct. 1.

Though expired, there is enough money available to fund the program through next year.

In 2016, the victims' compensation fund portion is set to expire.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the portion of the Zadroga Act that funds the WTC Health Program, and in a meeting Wednesday morning, its Republican members expressed support for the permanent extension.

Including Chairman Fred Upton, the committee has 31 members, with eight being co-sponsors.

While short of a formal vote, this gives Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) hope that the bill will progress to the House floor for a vote.

It comes the same day as Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio signed on as a Senate co-sponsor.

Donovan spokesman Pat Ryan said the congressman emailed the committee's GOP members Tuesday night with a personal plea to support the permanent extension.

"They met this morning as a committee and we heard positive things about the sense of the committee on where they stand," Ryan said. "We know they're trying to reach 'yes' on this and we'll continue working with them to reach a permanent extension."

The House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the victims' compensation fund, and last month introduced a bill that would extend the Zadroga Act's funding for five years, something that Donovan opposed as inadequate.

Donovan and Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) will meet with committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte later this week to discuss the permanent extension.

Once both committees approve the parts of the bill to get the measure to the House floor, Speaker Paul Ryan is expected to allow a vote.

Donovan and King issued a joint statement with Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan) and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) Wednesday: "With more than 250 House co-sponsors, and 66 Senate co-sponsors, it is clear that a strong bipartisan majority of Congress supports a permanent reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act."

With the Judiciary Committee's five-year bill and the Energy and Commerce Committee's discussion draft to extend the health program five years — an indication that a consensus was coming —the congress members said, "This draft has led to positive preliminary discussions, and support for a permanent health program is gaining momentum. This is a step in the right direction, but we need to continue making the case for a permanent bill. It is far too early to declare victory, and we're not going to let up in our efforts until we get a bill to the president's desk."