On September 11, 2001 and in the days and weeks that followed, thousands of patriotic Americans reported to the site of the World Trade Center to help in whatever way they could. On the day of the attacks, many ran up the buildings as most were running down; some joined the rescue mission at the pile in the days that followed; and still later, people came day in and day out to search for the remains of the fallen.
These heroes did not let us down 9 years ago, but on December 9th, the US Senate let them down.
Republicans successfully filibustered the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which will provide $7.4 billion for health care and monitoring for the heroes and community survivors who've suffered health ailments as a result of breathing in toxic air after the towers fell. Unfortunately, taking care of these heroes got caught up in political wrangling over tax cuts and spending bills and we were unable to gain the Republican votes to break the logjam.
But now I'm happy to report that momentum is building and it's my hope that we'll be able to deliver a Christmas miracle for our 9/11 heroes.
The media is more interested in this bill than they've ever been before, thanks in large part to Jon Stewart's devoting an entire episode of The Daily Show to the bill last week. If you haven't yet, you must see his interview with several of the 9/11 first responders, who are ill and need care.
I was thrilled that Jon put Governor Mike Huckabee on the spot and secured his support for the bill, which followed on the heels of Mayor Rudy Giuliani's endorsement of the legislation. Bipartisan support for the bill is growing by the day.
The bill has since been covered on ABC Nightly News and has gotten some excellent coverage on Fox News. I appeared on Fox the other day to discuss my efforts to pass this bill and then was very moved to see Shepard Smith express his own deep frustration with our inability to deliver health care for these heroes.
As Shepard said:
Who's going to hold these people's feet to the fire? We're able to put a 52 story building so far down there at Ground Zero, we're able to pay for tax cuts for billionaires who don't need them and it's not going to stimulate the economy. But we can't give health care to Ground Zero first responders who ran right into the fire? Went down there to save people? Do people know what this city was like that day? People were walking over bridges, they were covered in ash, they were running for their lives, they were crying, their family members were dead. And these people ran to Ground Zero to save people's lives. And we're not going to even give them medicine for the illnesses they got down there? It's disgusting, it's a national disgrace, it's a shame and everybody who voted against should have to stand up and account for himself or herself.
Jon Stewart and Shepard Smith are absolutely right. We have a moral obligation to these men and women who risked their lives to help the victims on 9/11 and we must not fail them.
I'm grateful that Senator Reid has indicated he is open to holding another vote on the bill next week and if we can get that vote, I hope enough Republicans will join us to overcome the filibuster so we can deliver a Christmas miracle for the heroes.
Due to the tireless effort of so many first responders and survivors, after nine long years we are close to fulfilling our duty to the 9/11 heroes, but we still have a lot of work to do. I urge my Republican colleagues to end the filibuster, engage in an open and respectful debate, and let each senator decide for themselves whether the heroes and victims of September 11th deserve quality health treatment and appropriate compensation for their tremendous loss and sacrifice.
Please keep the pressure on by calling your Senator at (202) 224-3121 and asking them to support The James Zadroga Health & Compensation Act.