NY Daily News – November 03, 2015
A powerful House Republican has emerged with a message for thousands of sickened Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers: You are heroes for five years; after that, drop dead.
Over the past few months, support for legislation to establish permanent funding for 9/11-related health care and financial assistance has steadily grown in the House and Senate. The groundswell has been strong enough that majorities in both bodies have signed on as co-sponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
Now, though, while praising the ill, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia is calling for limiting funds to five years and for slashing the amount okayed for compensation. His words are hollow, his actions malign.
From across the country, Americans rallied to serve their country in the dark days after the terror attack. They worked on the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, falsely assured by officials that the air was safe to breathe.
In fact, they labored in a toxic plume that destroyed lungs and digestive systems and spawned a rising toll of cancers.
Back then, because Republicans refused any funding, New York’s congressional delegations, led by Democrats Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler and Republican Pete King, waged a decade-long struggle for money.
Finally, in 2010, GOP opponents begrudgingly approved money for medical care and compensation. But they restricted funding to five years, never mind that the government permanently finances care for miners afflicted with black lung disease and atomic workers sickened by radiation.
Unconscionably, Congress let the Zadroga Act lapse on Sept. 30, forcing new action from New York’s representatives, plus Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
In the House, they enlisted 240 sponsors, including 56 Republicans, far more than the 218 needed for majority, on a bill for permanent funding. In the Senate, the recent additions of Republicans Mike Rounds from South Dakota and Dan Sullivan of Alaska built a 62-vote super-majority.
Then, suddenly, Goodlatte said he wanted to again set a five-year expiration, rather than simply commit to helping all of those who needs have been documented time and again.
Call it his drop-dead date.