UPDATED 08/19/10 8:54 a.m.
NESCONSET, N.Y. (CBS 2) — They are the words 9/11 rescuers have wanted to hear for nine years.
For the first time the president pledged to sign the 9/11 health bill into law.
Now, if only Congress could get it to his desk.
CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey spoke with a first responder who made a plea to the president himself.
It’s the letter that may ultimately help 9/11 responders get the aid they desperately need, a letter written by first responder John Feal, asking President Barack Obama where his priorities are.
“Dear Mr. President, why have you failed us?” Feal said. “It is disturbing that you have the time and energy to speak in favor of the mosque, but not on the health crisis caused by those attacks.”
The Long Islander reminded Obama of his campaign promise to support the bill that provides healthcare for 9/11 responders, and his silence on the issue since. The White House may have been paying attention because on Wednesday night it said, “The President looks forward to signing the 9/11 health bill into law, once it passes both houses of Congress.”
But Feal said Obama’s words aren’t enough.
“He needs to be more active. Look, he was passionate about his health care plan wasn’t he? He was telling people to vote this, do that. Let’s do that now,” Feal said.
Earlier this week the president came out in favor of the construction of a mosque at ground zero, news that added fuel to an already flammable situation.
Named after James Zadroga, an NYPD detective who died from respiratory disease related to 9/11, the $7.4 billion bill would also provide compensation payments to those still struggling with exposure to World Trade Center toxins.
“This bill should be more important than a campaign talking point,” Rep. Peter King said recently.
But passage in Congress is anything but certain as we saw last month when some called the bill a slush fund for New York while others raged against the rejection of it.
“The gentleman is wrong. The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues rather than doing the right thing,” Rep. Anthony Weiner said during a House meltdown back on July 30.
With half his foot lost while working on demolition duties, Feal said it’s finally time to kick politics to the curb.
“My message is to Congress, enough with the reckless partisan politics because we’re talking about human life,” Feal said.
On Wednesday night several members of New York’s delegation said they looked forward to working with the president in finally getting the bill passed, but the politics surrounding the bill and the spending that comes with it may be the bill’s biggest obstacle of all.