Queens and city officials slammed congressional Republicans for defeating a bill Thursday that would have provided billions of dollars in health care for those sickened by toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act failed by a vote of 255 to 159. Twelve Republicans voted for the act, which proposed giving as much as $7.4 billion to people who were exposed to Ground Zero toxins, including first responders, firefighters, rescue workers, police officers, EMTs, cleanup workers, area residents and schoolchildren.
“The party of no has reached a new low,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), a member of the House’s health subcommittee. “Ninety-three percent of the Republicans in the House turned their backs on the sick heroes of 9/11. Let there be no doubt anymore as to who supports the men and women who stand up for us.”
Weiner became outraged at Republicans on the House floor Thursday night, in particular at U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) after King interrupted the Forest Hills congressman.
“It’s Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans instead of doing the right thing for heroes,” Weiner shouted. “It is a shame, a shame!”
The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass because it was placed on the suspension calendar, meaning no amendments could be attached to it. King, who cosponsored and voted for the bill, criticized the move to place it on the suspension calendar.
“Under the rules of the House, if a bill comes up in normal ways you can offer amendments,” King said Friday on a radio show clip posted on his website. “Democrats were worried Republicans would say illegal immigrants couldn’t take part in the program.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) joined Weiner in criticizing Republicans.
“I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues were unable to rise above political gamesmanship and do what is right for the heroes of Sept. 11,” Crowley said. “There are no winners after tonight’s vote. This is not a partisan bill, nor should it have been labeled as one. This bill is about fulfilling the promise to the thousands of brave people whose health is suffering and as a result of their service on Sept. 11 and the days and months following the terrorist attacks against our nation.”
Crowley and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) have said they will continue to work to pass the bill.
“This fight is far from over, and I will work tirelessly until this bill passes,” Crowley said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the bill’s defeat “outrageous.”
“The events of that day were an attack on America, and addressing its health impacts is a national duty,” Bloomberg said. “People from every part of the country perished on 9/11, and first responders and volunteers from all 50 states took part in the subsequent relief and recovery efforts.”
According to a release issued by Maloney, who also sponsored the bill, and King, more than 13,000 World Trace Center responders are sick and receiving treatment. About 71,000 individuals have indicated they were exposed to the toxins by enrolling in the WTC Health Registry, Maloney and King said.
At least 10,000 people came from around the country to help the aftermath of the attacks, Maloney and King said.
Those who were exposed to the toxins have experienced a range of illnesses, including respiratory, gastrointestinal, and mental health conditions, Maloney and King said.
[Hat tip to Daily Intel for the video]