Zadroga bill passes House; Senate prospects up in the air

 It is unconscionable that it took nine years. Nonetheless, last week’s vote in the House of Representatives in support of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was historic.

 Though long overdue, it was a refreshing example of putting personal agendas aside for the good of the country.

And indeed, it was for the good of the entire United States and not just the state of New York. Volunteers from every state traveled to Lower Manhattan in the weeks and months following that tragic day.

 But still, there were 160 “no” votes. That’s disheartening.

We’re talking about heroes. We’re talking about thousands of citizens risking their own health to help others, to help New Yorkers. In the weeks and months after 9/11/01 we saw a country united like never before. As far as this bill is concerned, Capitol Hill should be a reflection of that quintessential moment of solidarity. Party lines must disappear.

 We are grateful to, and want to thank, the New York Congressional delegation, and Reps. Maloney, Nadler, King and McMahon, for getting the Zadroga bill passed. After it failed in July, they kept working and they triumphed and we salute them.

 So now what? The fight is seemingly far from over. The bill moves to the Senate floor and all signs point to a lengthy battle, a possible filibuster and the real likelihood that the bill will not see the light of day until 2011. Which begs numerous questions: what if the Democrats lose the Senate? What if Senator Gillibrand doesn’t prevail in her bid to return to Washington?

 The “right,” evidenced by the conservative from Texas, Representative Lamar Smith who voted no and called the bill a slush fund and even questioned its name in an attempt to paint a hero as something less, is more than ready for a fight in the Senate. Should they gain the majority, the bill could very well be in jeopardy.

 So now we call on Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, local activists and community leaders to become educators. They have to explain that this about helping victims, honoring heroes and paying tribute to those who volunteered to help our community rebuild and heal. We must not let opponents of this momentous bill spread lies and sway the debate for their own benefit. This is a moment to stand up, fight back, speak the truth and educate.

 Our local elected officials should become national voices in the coming months, both for the good of their real constituents and for the entire country.