Mayor Bloomberg on the Offensive as Fate of James Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill Rests in Hands of Senate

NY Daily News - December 21, 2010

by Adam Lisberg AND Michael Mcauliff

Mayor Bloomberg called on Senate Republicans Monday to stop obstructing the 9/11 health bill - but not all of them are heeding his message.

Senate GOPers initially blocked the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to get the Bush-era tax cuts. Others said they wanted a better way to pay for the bill.

With both those objections met - and the cost now cut to $6.2 billion - several Republicans seemed ready to pass the measure.

"The time for excuses is over," the independent Bloomberg said at City Hall, surrounded by legislators and 9/11 responders. "Very simply: it's time to end the debate and let the bill be voted on."

But Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl - who complained last week that working before Christmas was "disrespectful" - raised new complaints Monday.

"This has been a moving target from day one," Kyl told Fox News Channel, referring to the new, slimmed-down bill that Democrats changed Sunday - at the request of the GOP.

"This is not a bill that was considered by a committee," Kyl complained, though the Senate held a hearing, and the House held 21 meetings.

"This is something they came up with to put directly on the floor of the Senate," Kyl griped. "They have been changing it every day."

Democrats struggled for months to find a way Republicans could accept the financing of the measure. And several have signed off on the new funding streams.

But Kyl suggested the sources were "very controversial" - even though one - a visa fee on companies that outsource jobs - was passed unanimously in the Senate last year.

Another, travel visa fees, got 78 votes.

The objections ticked off Rep. Carolyn Maloney, one of the main sponsors of the legislation introduced in the House more than five years ago.

"Mr. Kyl's opposition seemed to be rooted in his professed ignorance of the bill," Maloney said.

"And he feels rushed, but had no problem letting the bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts - at a cost of over $800 billion - fly by within a week, when the responders have been waiting for nine years," Maloney said.

"It's a shame Mr. Kyl and his staff are unable to adequately track. But the 116 first-responders from Arizona - who traveled thousands of miles from Arizona to Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 and are now sick - deserve his full attention."

Kyl may have complained about working before Christmas, but Bloomberg said there should be no vacation for the Senate until it takes care of the cops, firefighters and volunteers who responded after Sept. 11, 2001.

"Caring for the men and women who rushed to our defense on that dark day, and in the days that followed, is nothing less than a national duty," said Bloomberg. "The Senate has a full week ahead of it, and it should not adjourn until it passes this bill."