Senate to consider Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act

SENATE TO CONSIDER ZADROGA 9/11 HEALTH AND COMPENSATION ACT…. In late September, the House approved a bill that should have been one of the year’s most obvious no-brainers. It’s called the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and it would pay health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. The legislation was fully paid for, financed by closing a tax loophole for American companies that try to hide their headquarters at P.O. boxes in the Caymans.

House Republicans trashed the bill, calling the health care money a “slush fund.” The chamber passed it anyway, overcoming the opposition of more than 90% of the House GOP.

The Senate will get its chance this week, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will start the process today.

The move sets up the first of three high stakes votes that likely will decide whether the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act ever comes to life, providing $3.2 billion for healthcare and $4.2 billion for compensation and others items.

The first vote would come Wednesday, with 60 Senators needed to agree to start debating the bill. Another 60 lawmakers would then have to agree to end the debate, setting up a third and final vote, with just a simple majority of 51 needed.

The first two are crucial, because only 59 senators have voiced support for the bill. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is the only Republican to sign on, and at least one more is needed.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) appears to be leading the charge against the measure, circulating a letter to his colleagues insisting that 9/11 workers were already compensated through a recent $625 million legal settlement. What Enzi didn’t mention is that these funds only covered those who were part of the lawsuit, leaving out thousands of other workers who’ve required treatment.

John Feal, an injured Ground Zero worker who runs the Fealgood Foundation, called Enzi’s letter “an insult to the entire 9/11 community.” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) was even more direct, calling it a “pack of lies.”

Also note that Republicans haven’t been receptive to outreach on the issue. T.J. Gilmartin is a New York truck driver who helped haul ruined FDNY vehicles away from Ground Zero. He still suffers from breathing problems and went to Capitol Hill last week to encourage GOP senators to back the bill. Gilmartin asked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for help on this, but the senator blew him off after 15 seconds.

To put it mildly, Republican opposition isn’t going over well in New York. The New York Daily News’ Joanna Molloy had a blistering column on this over the weekend, writing, “Congratulations, Republican senators. Our brave 9/11 first responders hear your message loud and clear: Next time, run. Your message is that if you ran toward the attack site to help, or came back and searched the smoldering pile for survivors for days or worked 12-hour shifts for months trying to locate remains so the heroes and the innocents could have a decent burial, that’s your problem.”

It’s worth emphasizing that the real basis for the opposition appears to be paying for the bill through closing a tax loophole. Republicans apparently consider that a tax increase, which is never acceptable under any circumstances, even if the health of 9/11 heroes is on the line.