Republicans Abandon 9/11 Responders

A day of infamy Senate Republicans would like to forget.


I try not to stereotype entire groups.  Really I do.  I prefer to see them as individuals.   Complex, complicated and not caricatures to be cut-and-pasted into our books of predetermined roles.

But damn if the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have made it impossible for me to see them as anything but a bunch of mean-spirited, selfish bastards.

GOP senators stopped a $7.4 billion bill to help rescuers who suffered injuries in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times reports. The Senate voted mostly on party lines to extend debate on the 9/11 health bill, effectively sending it to be considered by the next Senate, where passage will be even more difficult. In one last-ditch effort this year, backers will try to insert provisions into the tax-cut deal brokered between the president and congressional Republicans.

Their best hope is that Charles Schumer will convince Harry Reid to play along. The tax-cut extension, a sponsor of the bill explained, “is the one measure the Senate Republicans won’t leave this town without passing.” The bill sets aside $3.2 billion over the next 8 years for treating ailments inflicted on the day of the attacks. New York City would cover 10% of those costs. It also would set up a $4.2 billion compensation fund. Republicans want more specifics on where the money will come from.

The same Republicans who have dug their heels in on obtaining $700 billion in unpaid for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires suddenly become born-again deficit hawks when it comes to taking care of first responders.

Or maybe they’re  hoping the longer they delay and block this bill a few more sick cops, firemen and EMTs will die off.

Isn’t it strange how the same Republicans who lost their minds over the suggestion a Muslim civic center might be built several blocks away from Ground Zero don’t give a damn about the men and worked that supposed sacred ground?  Where are all those loudmouths who were organizing those protests now?

The first thing we need to dispense with is the generalities and get specific. The bill is H.R. 847,  The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010,  and its purpose: A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to extend and improve protections and services to individuals directly impacted by the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, and for other purposes.

The shields in the photograph represent the 29 NYPD personnel who have died (so far) from ailments related to working at the 9/11 site.

And who was Det. James Zadroga?

Det. James Zadroga passed away on January 5, 2006 as a result of various respiratory and digestive diseases and disorders developed from his exposure to the remains of the World Trade Center. Zadroga was the first member of the NYPD whose post 9/11 death was directly linked by a medical examiner to the rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts of the terrorist attacks.

Like thousands of other members of the service, Zadroga was reassigned to 9/11 rescue, recovery and clean up efforts and logged approximately 500 hours of duty in the World Trade Center rubble. He began having breathing difficulties when he returned to his new command, the 25 Squad, in late December of 2001. He transferred to Manhattan South Homicide in June of 2002, but his medical condition worsened. He retired on a disability November 1, 2004.

James’ ailments had already taken an irreversible toll on his wife Ronda, who died the same year from medical issues exacerbated by the family’s stress.

As his illnesses progressed, Zadroga was required to use a wheelchair and remain on oxygen around the clock. He moved in with his parents in New Jersey so they could assist with his four-year old daughter, Tyler Ann, who survives him. At the time of his death, James Zadroga was 34 years old.

No help for a hero.

Some of the issues about why this act is necessary and who is eligible to take part in it are answered in this Q&A from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s website, but specifically of the question about how the Act would be paid for.

Q. How much funding does this require?

A. The cost of the bill is $7.4 billion over 10 years. The bill is PAY-GO compliant and will not add to the deficit. It is Capped mandatory funding that is offset completely.

Q. How will the bill be paid for?

The $7.4 billion is offset completely by closing a loophole for companies incorporated in nontreaty foreign countries who do business in the U.S. Known as “treaty shopping,” this occurs where a parent firm headquartered abroad routes its U.S.-source income through structures in which a U.S. subsidiary of the foreign multinational corporation makes a deductible payment to a country that is signatory to a tax-reducing treaty with the U.S. before ultimately sending these earnings to the tax haven country where the parent firm is located. The provision does not hurt U.S. companies.

A New York Times editorial elaborated:  Police, firefighters and waves of citizen volunteers suffered various illnesses after their labors amid the toxic fumes and clouds at ground zero. Despite their tireless work, most were not part of the initial lawsuit settled last week when more than 10,000 first responders accepted at least $625 million in compensation from the city.

Tens of thousands who gradually reported respiratory and other illnesses have had to be monitored and cared for under a patchwork of temporary local programs that desperately need the Senate bill to meet long-term responsibilities. The measure provides eight years of medical aid at a cost of $3.2 billion, and $4.2 billion in economic compensation for those suffering career-ending sickness. Supporters have already answered Republican demands that the bill be fully paid for by closing loopholes enjoyed by offshore corporations.

The legislation, sponsored by both Democratic and Republicans, does not raise taxes, is paid for and address a serious ongoing need that cannot be met with the resources of the city or state.

And really, why should they? The events of September 11, 2001 were not a localized disaster, but an act of war against the entire United States.

The smoke has dissipated, the wreckage hauled away, the bodies buried and the area reopened for tourists, there’s much blather about how Ground Zero is sacred ground that cannot be defiled by the presence of a Muslim civic center blocks away.

But when time comes to ante up to actually help the 9/11 responders who lost life, limb and health working that smoldering pile of death and destruction while their government told them it was safe to do so, suddenly there’s a lot of lengthy excuses and short arms to compensate those who were once lauded as heroes.

Because, it’s like, not in the best interests of the 41 Senate Republicans to actually, you know, help people who don’t happen to be filthy, stinking rich already. One must know ones priorities and why should some cop in Brooklyn coughing up asbestos and fiberglass matter than some poor put-upon billionaire.

The economist, John Kenneth Galbraith once observed,  “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

There are 41 Republicans in Washington that are proof of this.   They are full of empty platitudes for the 9/11 responders and muttered excuses why they don’t deserve their help.    Shame on them and shame on a country that ignores their callous disregard.