Day 2: A Day of Infamy for the Senate

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  • Dale Eisman

Today, December 7, has for 69 years now been a day of remembrance for the heroic Americans who sacrificed life and limb to defend freedom as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought our country into World War II.

So it would be a good day, an especially good day, for our senators to resolve to deliver justice to the men and women who manned the front lines as our nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would create a special health monitoring, evaluation, treatment and compensation program for first responders at New York City’s World Trade Center, would be a good place to start. For weeks now however, it has been among dozens of important bills bottled up by the Senate’s filibuster rule.

Hundreds of New York firefighters, police officers and medical personnel are suffering from respiratory illnesses that are a likely byproduct of the toxic stew of gases they inhaled while working around the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and the days that followed.

Some senators apparently consider the Zadroga bill a tax increase because it would close tax breaks enjoyed by foreign corporations and use the money to help pay for the damages suffered by the first responders. To date, they’ve succeeded in stopping the Senate from even opening debate on the legislation, named for a detective who died from respiratory problems after working 450 hours among the Trade Center debris.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate’s majority leader, has scheduled a vote for Wednesday on a cloture motion, which would force the Senate to begin formal debate; it needs 60 votes, 9 more than a simple majority.

“If there’s a case to be made against the Zadroga bill, its opponents should have the simple decency to come to the Senate and state it, in an open debate, rather than hide behind a rule that lets them avoid the discussion,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Every day this bill stays bottled up is another day of infamy for the Senate.”