Capitol Hill controversy over 9/11 benefits

April 1, 2008 8:32:25 PM PDT
Remember the outpouring of sympathy from the country, and the world, for New York City after the September 11th attacks? Well now, someone might want to remind a conservative Congressman from out west, who has set off a storm of controversy. He doesn't understand why New York City victims need federal compensation. Say what?

"It's quite simple," Congressman Darrell Issa said. "I can't vote for additional money for New York."

Those are fighting words from a conservative California lawmaker as he pushes the red button and launches a contentious war of words on Capitol Hill.

The issue: federal funds for the first responders of 9/11.

"The firefighters who went there and everyone in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus, quite frankly, this being primarily a state consideration."

Congressman Anthony Weiner, from Brooklyn, who jousted with Issa at the hearing, told Eyewitness News that Issa's comments turned his stomach.

"It's a violation of congressional protocol to punch a colleague in the nose, and never in my 10 years in Congress have I ever felt the desire to do it as much as I did today."

Weiner: "Congress passed the compensation fund, a Republican-controlled Congress."
Issa: "Yes, and it's expired."
Weiner: "And frankly, the gentleman voted for it."
Issa: "I did."
Weiner: "The gentleman voted for it because we had the national sense that this was not just an attack on New York. This was an attack on our country."

Many first responders are now facing serious health issues after spending countless hours breathing toxic air at Ground Zero. Most of them have received little or no compensation.

People like Jim Riches, a retired fire chief who lost his son, Jimmy on 9/11, is now dealing with serious lung problems.

"I think it's a disgrace for Jimmy and all the guys who died that day for him to say just New York was attacked," Riches said. "My son was an American, and all of America got hurt that day."

It will be interesting to find out how many others feel the way Congressman Issa feels. The debate before Congress is whether to renew and expand the compensation package for first responders and others who worked at Ground Zero.