NY Daily News – November 04, 2015
by Jennifer Fermino
Sometimes it pays to drop an a-bomb on Congress.
After a staunch 9/11 advocate called the Republican Congressman blocking permanent renewal of the Zadroga Act an “a–hole,” three more pols signed onto a bill to guarantee funding the health plan for heroes.
All three of the new co-signers are members of the GOP — a not too subtle rebuke of U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s competing legislation, which waters down the original Zadroga Act by offering less money for the victim’s compensation fund.
That weak bill also only funds the 9/11 health care programs for five years instead of permanently.
Among those who signed on is U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, who comic Jon Stewart memorably chased down in Congress while lobbying for a permanent extension of the Zadroga Act.
“You could be a hero,” Stewart told her back in September.
Fischer agreed on Tuesday to back Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill — bringing the total co-sponsors up to a fillibuster-proof 62.
Two U.S. Reps — Mark Amodei of Nevada and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida — have agreed to back the House version of the bill, which now has 244 co-sponsors, more than enough to pass it.
Despite the wide bipartisan support, it’s unclear if those bills will make it to the floor.
Goodlatte, who is chair of the influential House Judiciary Committee, has not backed the House version and is pushing his watered-down bill. He did not return to calls for comment.
But he likely got an earful Tuesday from New Yorkers.
His voicemail became too full to take calls Tuesday after the Daily News published his office phone number so readers could sound off on his bill.
One source said the little-known Goodlatte is probably enjoying all the attention.
“He’s a Congressman from Virginia,” sniffed the source, a Beltway insider who knows Goodlatte.
“He probably loves being attacked in a New York paper and could very well fund-raise off of it.”
John Feal, a 9/11 construction worker who lost part of his foot working at Ground Zero, called Goodlatte an “a–hole” at a rally Monday to garner support for permanently extending the Zadroga Act.
Parts of the act — which passed Congress five years after a bruising battle to fund it — have already expired, putting the health care of 9/11 victims and first responders in jeopardy.
The outspoken Feal has no regrets.
“I’ve had dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails saying ‘you said what I was thinking,’” Feal told the Daily News.
U.S. Rep. Peter King stopped short of calling his fellow Republican “an a–hole,” but made it clear he doesn’t support Goodlatte’s bill.
“I strongly as I possibly can disagree [with his bill],” said King, who reps Long Island.
King, and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Malony and Jerrold Nadler have sponsored the House bill that would permanently fund the Zadroga Act.