Zadroga bill's future hinges on 1 Republican senatorBy ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO AND TOM BRUNE
December 1, 2010
It is just one vote.
But the health and future of thousands of Sept. 11 responders, many believed sickened by the toxic fumes of Ground Zero, hinges on whether New York's two Democratic senators can convince a single one of their Republican colleagues to throw support behind the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sounded confident Tuesday she could convince one Republican senator to join forces with 58 Democrats - as well as one new Republican senator,Mark Kirk of Illinois - to reach the crucial 60-vote majority needed to assure passage.
"I think we can come together in bipartisan fashion and pass this bill," Gillibrand said Tuesday in a news conference.
An up-or-down vote on the bill will be held sometime in the next two weeks, Gillibrandsaid about the measure that would help thousands harmed by the aftereffects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The bill requires 60 votes, which assumes allDemocrats vote as a bloc, to overcome an expected filibuster. A cloture motion to hold a vote to break the filibuster must be filed 30 hours before the vote takes place.
An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-Nev.) said Tuesday Reid could file a cloture motion "in the next day or so." But the aide deferred to the New York delegation for where the votes for Zadroga are. Schumer's office didn't return a call for comment.
Gillibrand said a dozen Republican senators, whom she didn't identify, were being lobbied byDemocrats to pass the legislation designed to help thousands of first responders get medical testing and health care. The measure is named after the late NYPD Det. James Zadroga, whose death has been linked by his family and police officials to work he did at Ground Zero.
Kirk, who just won election to the Senate, indicated he would support the measure, Gillibrand said. Kirk supported the bill as a member of the House of Representatives earlier this year.
One 9/11 health activist who didn't want to be named said a Republican senator viewed as the decisive swing vote in favor of the measure is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who recently bucked the Republican leadership there to win re-election in a write-in campaign. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a key supporter of the Zadroga bill in the House, confirmed Murkowski's name has been mentioned as an object of Democratic lobbying in the Senate.
A spokesman for Murkowksi didn't return telephone calls for comment.
Aides to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who traveled two weeks ago to Washington to push the bill, said he has been active lobbying for Republican support.
A major sticking point for the Republicans in the Senate has been a Democratic proposal to pay for the Zadroga bill. Democrats want to raise the $7.4 billion required under the health measure by sealing off overseas tax loopholes.
"Many Republicans are uncomfortable doing tax policy at this time," explained Gillibrand.
While Gillibrand is optimistic the crucial solitary Republican vote can be garnered to pass the bill which is essentially the same legislation passed in the House - others weren't so sure.
"I think we still have an uphill battle," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association in New York.
"It would be tragic if we didn't get the votes we need," Lynch said.