Advocates for Aid to Sick 9/11 Responders Renew Push for Bill

Backers of a bill to provide up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center dust renewed their push for the measure Wednesday as a second House vote nears.

First responders, survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks and New York lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill to press their case. They are urging passage of the bill to provide free health care and compensation to 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who fell ill after working in the trade center ruins. A vote is expected next week.

"We are marking the ninth anniversary of 9/11 with a demand that Congress do what it should have done long ago -- provide health care for those who lost their health because of the attacks," said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a lead advocate of the bill.

In July, the bill failed to win the two-thirds majority needed under the procedure that Democratic leaders used to bring up the bill to block potential amendments. The bill fell short by a vote of 255-159.

Supporters of the bill say they're more optimistic this time because the bill will need only a simple majority under regular parliamentary rules.

"Failure is not an option," said John Feal, a ground zero demolition worker who has lobbied extensively for the bill.

Maloney said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has agreed to bring up the bill under regular parliamentary rules "with the expectation that neither side will play politics with this life-saving legislation."

During the floor debate in July, GOP critics branded the bill as yet another big-government "massive new entitlement program" that would have increased taxes and possibly kill jobs.

To pay the bill's estimated $7.4 billion cost over 10 years, the legislation would have prevented foreign multinational corporations incorporated in tax haven countries from avoiding tax on income earned in the U.S.

Bill supporters said that would close a tax loophole. Republicans branded it a corporate tax increase.

The legislation is named for James Zadroga, a police detective who died at age 34. His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero, but New York City's medical examiner said Zadroga's lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse.

Members of Congress from New York and New Jersey have been pushing such a measure for years.

Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

"After nine years we've waited long enough to do the right thing," U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler said.