NEW YORK (CBS 2/ 1010 WINS/ WCBS 880) — A seven-year struggle to win health benefits for 9/11 responders may finally be at an end.
A compromise worked out over the weekend seems to be picking up steam in Washington and could be passed this week, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Tens of thousands of 9/11 responders who got sick from working at ground zero could have a green Christmas. A revised bill that cuts costs and self-funds the program seems destined for passage in the persnickety Senate.
“To those that don’t support this bill I say get out of our way,” former FDNY Lt. Kenny Specht said.
Specht, who got cancer from working at ground zero, will be one of those lobbying Congress for the health bill.
“President Lincoln said that any country that does not honor its heroes will not long survive,” Specht said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer expressed concern that opponents might use a filibuster to kill the bill as Congress tries to complete its business for the year this week.
“We believe we’ve secured enough Republican votes to prevail,” Schumer said.
“If no one does undue delay – just stands up and delays and delays and delays – we will get this done. And that’s my plea to my colleagues in both the House and Senate, please don’t delay this bill. Let it come to a vote and we will win.”
The bill is named for James Zadroga, the former NYPD detective who died of respiratory diseases after working on the pile. His dad, Joseph, was at a press conference called by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make a final push for Congress to act.
“I beg the Senate down in Washington D.C. to see the light, respect the heroes and pass this bill for these heroes so that they can go on with the rest of the life with dignity and honor and so they can take care of their families,” Joseph Zadroga said.
The compromise worked out by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Schumer cuts the cost of the bill by $1 billion and answers many of the objections posed by Republicans. Gillibrand said she was moved by how young the ailing responders are.
“The average age of these men and women is 46. These are young men and women cut down in the prime of their lives, with young children at home. You can’t think of a greater tragedy, so if we can deliver this bill I think it will be a Christmas miracle,” Gillibrand said.
Mayor Bloomberg has also campaigned aggressively for the bill.
“America is too great a country to shirk this duty. We are too strong, too patriotic, and this is the week we have to show it,” the mayor said.
Gillibrand told Kramer the bill could be voted on Tuesday or Wednesday. The House could take up the measure right afterwards or at least by the end of this congressional session on Jan. 4.
“America will be watching very closely on how the senate votes on something that goes fundamentally to the issue of who we are as Americans and whether we stand by our heroes,” Sen. Gillibrand said.
“The people who rushed to the towers after 9/11, they’re our heroes,” Schumer said. “Just like veterans they volunteered and risked their lives for us at a time of war. American tradition is we don’t turn our backs on them no matter what state they’re from, no matter what party you’re from. I see at these last moments the Congress coming together along those lines.”