The battle to extend federal funding for medical treatment and monetary assistance for sickened 9/11 rescue and recovery workers has reached a key turning point.
Two Senate Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois, have signed on as cosponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, giving the measure its first, crucial bipartisan support.
Although they represent states far from Ground Zero, Murkowski and Kirk understand that the 9/11 attack was an attack on the entire country, with New York taking the hit for America. They accept the national obligation to care for the injured and survivors of the lost.
The law is named for NYPD Det. James Zadroga, whose lungs were fatally scarred by breathing the toxic air over the Trade Center rubble. Congress passed it in the waning moments of Democratic control near the end of 2010.
In a compromise Republicans demanded, Democrats cut a planned 10-year, $7.4 billion program to five years and $4.2 billion. The five years are up at the end of 2016. Without action by this Republican-controlled Congress, the program will expire.
Leading the push, as always, are Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Pete King.
Locally, every member from New York, eight Republicans and 18 Democrats, is a sponsor, along with the entire Connecticut delegation.
Of New Jersey’s dozen members, four Republicans and five Democrats are on the bill, while Republicans Scott Garrett and Rodney Frelinghuysen and Democrat Donald Norcross are missing in action. They need to sign on, as does every representative and senator, regardless of state or party.
Funding is set to run out before Election Day in 2016. As candidates ask for support, voters should demand that they do right by the Americans victimized while serving at Ground Zero.