Showdown Over 9/11 First Responders' Health Bill

Supporters of legislation to give federal funds to care for 9/11 first responders sickened by the aftermath of the terrorist attack filed into the Capitol in droves on Tuesday to push for quick passage of the measure before Congress adjourns for the year.

"I'm not going away. I am not kidding. If I have to run for Congress, I will and filibuster everything you are doing," threatened first responder activist John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation, a non-profit group set up for the express purpose of pushing this cause.

Victims from the clean up area at Ground Zero and their loved ones and supporters spoke of numerous types of deadly cancers, lung diseases and more.

"This is not a game, ok. This is human life," said Glen Klein, an NYPD officer who now says he is sick with a lung disease. "I was never sick before. Never took medication before."

Feal, Klein and others headed to the Senate office buildings to personally lobby for their cause after their press conference.  Fox caught them visiting the offices of Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Susan Collins, R-Me, not all of them necessarily opposed to the bill.

Opponents of the measure, trying to work out an agreement  to hold some kind of vote before adjournment, repeatedly point out that they are not against this cause.  Rather, as explained by an aide to Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, there are "concerns" about the "ambiguity" in the bill, for example, how do you deal with any redundancy or overlap when it comes to those responders who will receive money from the Victims Compensation Fund and who, exactly, qualifies?

Still, GOP aides are more than conscious of the difficult position they are in against a powerful picture of cancer victims on national television pleading for help. 

Aides on both sides of the argument say the pressure could break the logjam, but at the moment, Republicans have the power to possibly run out the clock in 2010, forcing supporters into a new Congress where fiscal concerns are paramount.

Separately, some people in the travel industry are troubled by the way the Schumer-Gillibrand bill pays for the $6 billion victims' fund. It takes a funding stream that is in existence until 2015 to help their industry --  a fee on tourists from 36 countries that participate in the visa waiver program, money that is then turned around in order to promote U.S. tourism. 

Supporters of the tourism promotion originally said that money was "seed money" only and would end in 2015. Now some in the industry want to see that fee continued. 

The 9/11 bill does extend that fee, but it takes the money to pay for the health care fund.

All of that said, it does sound like the wheels are in motion to get a vote on this bill soon. Remains to be seen if supporters and opponents (skeptics?) can come to an agreement in time.