By Bill Parry
Hundreds of 9/11 first responders and survivors boarded buses Tuesday morning at the Fire Academy on Randall’s Island for a trip to Washington, D.C. where they rallied outside the Capitol Building and urged Congress to pass a permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The first part of the program that pays for those suffering from 9/11-related health conditions was allowed to expire Oct. 1 and the compensation fund is set to expire next fall.
This time the first responders and survivors had additional support from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and their influential leader and founder Paul Rieckhoff.
“Sept. 11th defined a lasting call to service for many Americans. However, for both the post-9/11 generation of veterans and the 9/11 first responders, the consequence of their service extended far beyond that terrible day,” Rieckhoff said. “As a Ground Zero first responder myself, I will devote the full resources of our organization to ensure our heros are not neglected. Our country can’t afford to turn our backs on the 9/11 families, first responders and veterans who have answered the call of service.”
Since that rally, nine new co-sponsors in the House have signed on to the reauthorization bill and on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) joined them, becoming the first Republican White House candidate to support the bipartisan effort.
Sensing momentum, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and several colleagues released a joint statement saying, “With more than 250 House co-sponsors, and 66 Senate co-sponsors, it is clear that a strong bipartisan majority of Congress supports a permanent reauthorization of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act.”
U.S. Rep. Peter King (D-Nassau) told News 12 LI Wednesday that members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are supporting a permanent extension of the Zadroga Act. King credited the 9/11 first responders and survivors, saying their repeated trips to Washington has made an impact on lawmakers.
“It is far too early to declare a victory, and we’re not going to let up in our efforts until we get a bill to the president’s desk,” Maloney and her colleagues said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr