From the Staten Island Advance:
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Disgusted officials from Staten Island and beyond scolded U.S. Senate lawmakers yesterday, charging that Washington’s delay in passing the Zadroga 9/11 health bill showed they’d forsaken the American heroes who got sick and died after responding to the World Trade Center site.
Conservative Borough President James P. Molinaro said that lawmakers were breaking the promise to “never forget,” and were “betraying the real heroes of 9/11.”
“Get this done,” Molinaro said at Borough Hall, where he was joined by all the borough’s elected Republican legislators and by Brooklyn GOP state Sen. Martin Golden. “We want to send a message to everyone in Washington.”
The $7.4 billion health bill, named after the late NYPD Detective James Zadroga, needs one more GOP vote in order to pass the Senate. Opponents have said the bill costs too much.
The bill passed the House earlier this year, with outgoing Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) voting for it.
Molinaro's letter to Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Blaming Democrats and Republicans alike, Molinaro said that Senate lawmakers had added so many extraneous amendments to the bill that it resembled a “Christmas tree,” and had led to squabbling that has stalled the bill.
“They made a Christmas tree out of it,” he said, “just to satisfy themselves.”
Molinaro has sent a letter to GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging passage of the bill. He called the gathering of Republicans at Borough Hall yesterday “unprecedented” and was meant to spur Senate Republicans to break the deadlock.
GOP Congressman-elect Michael Grimm said both sides had politicized the legislation.
“This was a bill that should have been very simple and 100 percent bipartisan,” he said.
Grimm, who was elected to Congress on a pledge to cut spending, said the Zadroga bill was “not just an expenditure. It’s an investment in the heroes that keep this nation safe.”
Assemblyman Lou Tobacco (R-South Shore) said that when his neighbor, the late firefighter Richie Manetta, fell ill with cancer after working on the pile, Manetta had to hold a fundraiser and raffle off two of his prized vintage autos in order to pay his bills.
“It shouldn’t be that way,” Tobacco said. “Let this bill pass for these families.”
Molinaro said that he would include a copy of the Manetta fundraiser flyer in his package to Senate lawmakers, saying the fact that a 9/11 responder had to hold a fundraiser for his health care was “a national disgrace.”
Golden said it was “sad” that the government could spend billions on auto industry and Wall Street bailouts but was dragging its feed on aiding 9/11 responders.
“They were the first ones who went down in this war,” said Golden. “To this day, people are dying.”
State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) said that cops, firefighters and other responders “gave the nation hope” in the first days after 9/11 and shouldn’t be forsaken now.
“We promised never to forget,” he said. “This is part of that promise.”
“There was no expiration date on that commitment,” said City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn). “There has to be a way to honor that commitment and be fiscally responsible.”
Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore) said it was ironic that lawmakers could stalemate the bill less than 10 years after it seemed that the whole country was flying the American flag and wearing NYPD and FDNY hats and T-shirts.
“You are not living up to that promise,” said Ignizio, who was joined by his uncle, Port Authority Police Officer Richard Ignizio, who worked on the pile. “That’s what we’re here to call you out on.”
“It’s our responsibility to take care of them when they need us,” said Assemblywoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn).