Schumer, Gillibrand optimistic of 9/11 health bill

December 20, 2010 7:12:53 PM PST
New York City first responders and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are urging Congress to approve a scaled-back version of a bill that would help sick 9/11 workers.

"This bill is a life saving measure. There's no more time for politics or playing around," John Feal said.

Feal, a former demolition supervisor, is one of the first responders whose heroic effort at ground zero on September 11 left him fighting illness.

They are at the heart of a bill calling for health care coverage for all first responders. Many have since developed chronic illnesses and cancers.

Some like Officer James Zadroga, for whom the legislation is named, lost their lives.

"They are out there suffering and the families are out there suffering. They need this help," Joseph Zadroga, his father, said.

The bill's cost, trimmed by a billion dollars, addresses concerns of Republican lawmakers. Supporters now say it pays for itself in part from fees on foreign companies.

"It doesn't effect the U.S. Economy. It doesn't effect U.S. Companies and it's really on companies that really don't work as well with us as they should," Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand said.

New York's two senators said the votes are there for the reconfigured bill. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling on Congress to approve it.

"This is not a vote on whether we should increase the deficit. It's a vote on whether we should stand by those who stood by American during its hour of greatest need," Mayor Bloomberg said.

The House passed the Health and Compensation Act earlier this year.

Hope lies now in the senate and passing it before the Christmas recess.

"I am not ready to pop the champagne, because anything can go wrong over the next several days. We're talking about Washington, D.C.," feal said.

It's expected to come to a vote on Wednesday.