9/11 responders lobby for health bill in D.C.By YAMICHE ALCINDOR
September 16, 2010
WASHINGTON - More than 300 people, including many from Long Island, gathered Wednesday morning on the west lawn of the Capitol Building to demand passage of the Zadroga 9/11 health bill, which would reopen a victims' compensation fund to new claims.
Busloads of people organized by FealGood Foundation, a first-responders advocacy group, trekked to the Capitol early in the morning to lobby for the $7.4-billion bill. Later in the day, they planned to visit lawmakers' offices.
"This is a bill that gets to the heart of our nation," U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) told the crowd. "Go to their offices and let them see who you are . . . let them see the tragedy."
Several members of the New York House delegation spoke, including bill sponsors Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, both Manhattan Democrats, as well as
Steve Israel (D-Huntington).At times, the crowd on the west lawn resembled a pep rally, with people using loudspeakers to applaud those who worked for months searching for survivors and clearing debris. The crowd cheered, clapped and chanted as lawmakers and speakers urged passage of the bill.
"It is tremendously important," Maloney told the crowd. "It will save lives."
Maloney told the crowd of the uphill battle she and other lawmakers had faced authoring the bill and getting others to vote on it. The House bill died in a battle over voting procedure despite support from Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and others.
Maloney said lawmakers will most likely vote early next week on the bill, which needs a majority vote of 218 in the House to pass. King has scolded Democrats for seeking a supermajority in the previous vote; the tactic meant that Republicans could not attach amendments.
Maloney spoke of the disappointment she and others felt when the bill failed on its last vote and of supporters' resolve in getting it passed. Calling the legislation "vital," Maloney said more than 25,000 Americans have health problems related to 9/11.
"We need to treat these men and women . . . as veterans," Maloney said. "They should be given the compensation they deserve."
Later, Maloney said, "Given the tone and determination of everyone here, I believe it is going to pass."
Nadler told those in the crowd that lawmakers must back the bill. Passing it "is the only just thing that we can do" for those who are suffering, he said.
John Feal, president of the FealGood Foundation, delivered a boisterous speech about hope and perseverance. "Today, we walk the halls of Congress and get a billed passed," said Feal, of Nesconset.
Several in the crowd held signs with such messages as, "The Time is NOW to Support 9/11 Heroes, 9 Years is Long Enough" and "There are no words that express our suffering."