Zadroga Bill Supporters Scramble for One More Republican Vote in the Senate

One more Republican vote is needed to bring the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to the Senate floor for debate, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The Zadroga bill would provide long-term health care for those who <"">became ill after working at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and re-create a victim compensation fund to make cash payments to sick workers or their survivors.

The Zadroga bill was approved in the House of Representatives this past fall, but still needs to make it through the Senate before it can become law. A test vote on the bill is expected Wednesday, the Journal said.

As we reported last week, some Republicans are opposing the bill, claiming it opens the door to fraud and would be a “job killer.” The “job killing taxes” Zadroga bill opponents refer to is the plan to fund the bill’s program by cracking down on companies that “treaty-shop,” which means they funnel income through firms located in other countries that have treaties setting lower US tax rate. To garner Republican support, advocates of the Zadroga bill have offered alternative funding plans, but those have been ignored by opponents.

So far, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is the only Republican to support the bill. If opponents do succeed in filibustering Zadroga, it is doubtful it will ever become law.

According to The New York Daily News, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has called opponents’ objections a “pack of lies.”

“I long feared that this bill would get tangled in partisan rhetoric, and it saddens me that this seems to have occurred,” Gillibrand said in a letter to colleagues.

The misinformation opponents of the Zadroga bill are circulating include a claim that the recently approved Ground Zero settlement covers ALL injured and sickened workers. But as the Daily News points out, it only covers around 10,000 people who filed suit. The settlement does nothing for the 30,000 people who received some form of treatment – let alone the estimated 90,000 people who rushed to the toxic scene.

And then there are the 325 Ground Zero workers who did file suit, but who will have no part in the settlement because of its arbitrary deadline – a deadline most weren’t even aware of until it passed. Attorney Matthew McCauley, whose firm <"">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP represents more than a dozen such claimants, told The Wall Street Journal that the Zadroga bill may be the only chance such claimants have for compensation because “they’re seeing the court dismiss every claim they put in.”

These forgotten heroes include Richard Dambakly, who was a Verizon employee at the time and now lives in North Carolina. According to a report on WWAYTV3, Dambakly worked 12 to 16 hour days at Ground Zero, seven days a week, for four months. During his time there, he developed a severe cough. He later was diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma, a blood cancer that may have resulted from Dambakly’s exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero. He’s being penalized because he missed the settlement deadline by a mere 14 days.

After five months of extensive chemo, Dambakly’s cancer is in remission. But he worries about what could happen to his five children if the disease returns.

Dambakly has been invited to Washington DC by US Representative Carol Maloney, a New York Democrat, and the FealGood Foundation in the hopes that he will have the opportunity to meet and petition North Carolina’s Senate delegation (as well others) for the necessary votes to pass the Zadroga bill.

“Rich is the classic example of how the 9/11 settlement was not fair to everyone because the court and lead counsel for both sides unnecessarily left seriously injured parties out by failing to timely advise them of their right to take part in it,” McCauley said.

In the meantime, while he awaits the ultimate fate of the Zadroga bill, McCauley said Damblakey and others like him are also appealing their exclusion from the World Trade Center Settlement, as it offers benefits that are not part of Zadroga bill that they are rightfully entitled to.

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