NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Supporters of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 vow to keep fighting after losing a crucial battle in Congress.
The senate rejected a move Thursday to bring the $7.4 billion measure to a vote.
Democrats could not sway enough Republicans to support the bill, which would provide health care and compensation to 9/11 rescue workers.
Supporters were three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote. The bill failed on a test vote, 57-42.
Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill and 41 Republicans opposed it. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, switched his vote to ‘no’ at the last moment, a parliamentary move that allows him to bring the measure up again for a vote.
Backers of the legislation see this lame-duck session of Congress as possibly its last chance. The bill has passed the House.
Republican senators have promised not to consider any other bills until the Senate acts on funding the government and extending tax cuts.
Critics questioned whether the bill is affordable and does enough to ensure that only people with illnesses related to trade center dust get help.
As the vote was taking place, NYPD Detective Kevin Czartoryski was being laid to rest in Long Island City, Queens. He died Sunday from a lung ailment linked to his work at Ground Zero.
Supporters of the legislation said Congress turned its back on the detective and others like him. “All we’re asking is for folks to get medical coverage. We’re not asking for anything more than the most basic of things and I don’t understand why they would walk away,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand were vowing to use any means to revive the bill, including attaching it to the tax cut package.
“We should not have to wait for tax deals to do what’s right,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a lead advocate of the bill.
“It’s disgusting, how they justify their jobs, how they go home to their wife and kids and say ‘I did a great job today. Oh, by the way, I screwed 9/11 responders out of healthcare and compensation, hey what’s for dinner?’” John Feal, of the FealGood Foundation — a support group for first responders, said. “It’s an insult to us.”
“Republicans, like cowards, hid behind political procedures to block a bill that would save lives,” Feal said.
Facing long odds, supporters will try to attach the 9/11 bill to the legislation that emerges from the tax deal. They’ll also press for another vote once the tax issue is settled.
“We’ll be happy and we’ll walk away, but we’ll walk away with a bitter taste in our mouths that the United States Senate is now the United States clowns,” Feal said.