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Bishop: First Responders Demand Passage of 9/11 Health Bill

Originally Posted: August 25, 2010

Hauppauge - Today, Congressman Tim Bishop joined nearly 20 9/11 First Responders and advocates to call for swift passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which was scuttled by near-unanimous Republican opposition when it came to a vote in the House of Representatives in July.

"We need to act and we need to act now so, once again, we as a nation can say that we stand behind those who stood behind us," Bishop said, demanding that Congress immediately take up the legislation when it reconvenes on September 14. "If we really want to honor those who perished and those who responded on September 11, we need to take care of the health of those who are still with us."

The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would provide necessary medical monitoring and treatment to World Trade Center first responders and those who worked or lived in downtown Manhattan on September 11. It also reopens the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to compensate those affected. The legislation will help the thousands of New York's courageous firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and clean up workers as well the thousands of selfless individuals who rushed from every state to lend a hand in the rescue, recovery, and clean up efforts at Ground Zero.

The legislation was brought up in the House of Representatives on July 29 for a vote. Although it received a 255-159 majority, it was brought up as a suspension bill, meaning it needed a 2/3 majority to pass. Congressman Bishop supports bringing the bill back to the floor under regular rules, meaning it would need only a simple majority.

"Nine years we've waited, and 900 have lost their battles with 9/11-related illnesses, we will not wait another year," said John Feal, Ground Zero responder and President and Founder of the FealGood Foundation. Feal said he is planning a rally of the 9/11 community in Washington, DC on September 15, either to celebrate passage of the bill, or to demand it.

Jennifer McNamara, widow of firefighter and 9/11 first responder John McNamara, recounted her husband's struggle with cancer caused by his exposure to toxins at Ground Zero, despite assurances from the federal government that the air was safe. Quoting her husband, who passed away last year, McNamara said "Let's stop the garbage and put our people first."

Kenny Specht, President, NYC Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation mentioned the upcoming start of another NFL season as a signal that the bill must be passed. "Professional Football begins next month, but using us as a political football ends today," Specht said. "What's right is right, and our bill is right."

Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, whose husband served at Ground Zero as New York City Police officer said "This should not be a political issue, let's take care of the 9/11 responders forever, not just temporarily."

Suffolk County Legislator John Kennedy vowed to attend the rally in Washington on September 15 to stand with the "brave men and women who suffered in the aftermath of 9/11."

"I commend Congressman Bishop for bringing this issue to the forefront," Kennedy added.

In concluding the rally, which took place at the Freedom Stone, a memorial for 9/11 dedicated by Innovative Stone, a leading stone supply company headquartered in Hauppauge, Bishop dismissed rationales for opposing the 9/11 health legislation as politically motivated.

"Arguments made in opposition to this bill, that caring for 9/11 first responders is a local issue, or that the health fund is some kind of slush fund are offensive, if not obscene," Bishop said. "We need to pass this bill."

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