Zadroga World Trade Center Worker Compensation Bill in Limbo as Senate Plays Politics

The fate of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is still uncertain. According to a report on, the Zadroga bill does not have the 60 votes needed to break a Senate filibuster. The vote to end the Zadroga bill filibuster is expected sometime this afternoon or this evening.

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. But in the Senate, cloture must be approved before the bill can be debated and put to a simple majority vote. Cloture takes 60 votes, and according to the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), only 59 Senators are committed to approving cloture.

Only one Republican is supporting the Zadroga bill at this time – Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine also may support it.

Sadly, it appears the Zadroga bill is being held hostage for the sake of politics. According to Newsday, the bill’s supporters are concerned Republicans will follow through on their vow to block all matters until the Senate votes on a bill extending the Bush tax cut. Other Republicans have a problem with the way the bill is funded. The current bill would do so 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.

The bill’s chief opponent, Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, has circulated a document referring to this funding mechanism as “job killing taxes.” While proponents of the Zadroga bill have offered funding alternatives, those against the measure remain unconvinced.

On the Senate floor today, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) implored his Republican colleagues not to block the bill, Newsday said.

“It is unfair and it is not right to say, ‘We will not remember these people who volunteered and risked their lives to protect our freedom in a time of war, we will not help them until x or y or z gets done,'” he said.

Schumer also attacked the objections included in the document Enzi circulated. “It is also time for those who are against this bill to stop spreading lies about it,” Schumer said.

The misinformation opponents of the Zadroga bill are circulating includes a claim that it is unnecessary because the recently approved Ground Zero settlement covers ALL injured and sickened workers. But as The New York Daily News recently pointed 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 as a Verizon employee at the time, ran cable to set up temporary communication lines for police and firefighters. 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 settlements 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.

“If I get cancer again, who’s gonna pay my bills? Who’s gonna pay the bills for chemo? Realize how expensive it is for chemotherapy? Hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Dambakly said.

If opponents of the Zadroga bill do succeed in blocking it today, Senate Democrats could schedule a second vote as soon as Friday in hope of convincing one more Republican to support it.

However, if the Zadroga bill is not passed during the current lame duck session of Congress, it’s feared it will never become law.

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