Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, bill to help responders, may die

BY Michael Mcauliff
July 28, 2010”

WASHINGTON – The House votes Wednesday or Thursday for the first time ever on a bill to care for the heroes and victims of Sept. 11, 2001 – and it’s likely to fail.

That’s because Democratic House leaders decided Tuesday to push ahead with the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act under a rule that requires two-thirds approval to pass.

Many Republicans are concerned about the $10.5 billion price tag, and many don’t like the way it’s paid for.

News of the scheme immediately alarmed 9/11 responders.

“Whoever votes ‘No’ tomorrow should go to jail for manslaughter,” said John Feal, who lost half his foot at Ground Zero in the cleanup.

Feal thinks House leaders should have found a way to move the bill in the regular way, needing just a simple majority.

“They’ll all go home and lick their wounds after the vote, but 9/11 responders are the ones who are going to suffer without health care after nine years,” Feal said.

Sources told the Daily News that Democrats feared Republicans would attach toxic changes in a simple majority vote. No such tinkering is allowed under the two-thirds rule.

New York’s legislators were still holding out hope they would prevail.

“Every time we had a vote on this, we did much better than people thought,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens).

And Republicans who oppose the bill can be cast in a politically poisonous light, Democrats said, noting the measure is paid for by closing tax loopholes on subsidiaries of foreign companies.

“Either they stand to protect foreign corporations who are avoiding U.S. taxes, or they are going to stand to protect those who stood in protection of us on 9/11,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens).

“Do they want to stand up for the heroes of 9/11 or do they want to vote for tax evasion?” asked Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan).

In a painful irony, the decision to use an odd procedure came as Congress was voting to fund the war in Afghanistan, and add it to the debt.

“What I think is tragic is that we’re funding wars that came out of 9/11, yet we’re not taking care of the men and women who risked their lives,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan).

She and Nadler predicted if the measure fails, they will bring it back after the August recess. “We’re playing to win, but if we don’t we’re building momentum,” Maloney said.