Fulfilling a duty: House panel finally votes to fund health care for WTC respondersEditorial
May 27, 2010
At long last, almost 10 years after 9/11, a committee of the House of Representatives has voted to provide federal funding for health care for thousands of sickened rescue and recovery workers.
The action by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday night represented a milestone in the long battle to persuade the U.S. government to care for citizens who paid heavy prices for responding to an act of war.
Great credit goes to Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, Manhattan Democrats, and to Rep. Pete King, Long Island Republican. With Maloney in the lead, they and others in the New York delegation have fought the good fight.
The vote on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act should have been virtually unanimous. But the tally turned out to be 33 to 12 because some
Republicans engaged in a shameful display of blaming both the victims and New York.
There was Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, claiming the medical spending would "jeopardize the financial health of the United States" and accusing responders of being "willing to jeopardize the financial health of every single American."
There was Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, charging that New York was trying to dump what he termed its responsibility to the rescue workers onto the federal government. He called the bill "a vehicle for cost-shifting" that would encourage "waste, fraud and abuse."
There was Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, accusing the responders of seeking to elevate themselves above the U.S. military.
There was Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, defending former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman, whose grossly misleading statement that the air was safe imperiled thousands.
And there was Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida, proposing an amendment to deny 9/11 health bill treatment to terrorists. As if terrorists might be lurking among the Ground Zero workers.
Such willful callousness was shocking. But hope abides that many more House Republicans understand that New York was attacked only as a powerful symbol of the United States. And that the responders came not just from New York, but from all around the nation. They now live in almost every congressional district. All need help.
Among those in the GOP who stood tall on the committee were Reps. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and Michael Burgess of Texas.
Now the fight moves to the House floor, then to the Senate, where Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has vowed to hold hearings before the August recess.
There's still a long way to go before the Forgotten Victims of 9/11 get their due. For now, their voices have begun to be heard.