The state's two senators and 14 House members met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius just hours before President Obama implored in his speech to the nation for Congress to come together and deliver a government that delivers on its promises to the American people.In the aftermath of the attacks and with the ruins still aflame, President Bush and Senator Schumer basically came to an understanding that anything that the State and City asked for, they would get for the WTC response.
So the legislators were floored to learn the Democratic administration does not want to deliver for the tens of thousands of people who sacrificed after 9/11, and the untold numbers now getting sick.
"I was stunned — and very disappointed," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who like most of the other legislators had expected more of a discussion on how to more forward.
"To say the least, I was flabbergasted," said Staten Island Rep. Mike McMahon.
The 9/11 bill would spend about $11 billion over 30 years to care for the growing numbers of people getting sick from their service at Ground Zero, and to compensate families for their losses.
The legislators were shocked the idea was falling lower on the administration priority list than other parts of the war on terror and financial bailouts.
"She made it clear that the administration does not support any kind of funding mechanism that goes into the bill," said Bronx Rep. Eliot Engel. "I think it's fiscal restraint… but you know what? They find money for everything else, they need to find money for this," Engel said.
"We were attacked because we're a symbol of our country." McMahon was furious that caring for the heroes of Sept. 11 would take a back seat to anything but military funding.
"I thought there was a complete lack of understanding of the issue by the secretary and quite frankly, I did not expect that lack of compassion and failure to understand the urgency of the issue."
Within a few years of the attacks, a disturbing number of firefighters and police officers came down with ailments that could be attributed to their work at Ground Zero. Their medical needs are significant and we should not be abandoning them in their time of need.
Then Senator Hillary Clinton played a major role in making sure that those suffering from ailments that were attributed to working at Ground Zero were cared for and the WTC screening program at Mount Sinai Medical Center. It's a real need, and that the Obama Administration is now pursuing this tact is a slap in the face of all those who gave their all to recover remains of the nearly 3,000 people murdered at Ground Zero. It's up to the New York delegation to get this done, and it looks like they're falling short.
So, why is the Administration pursuing this tact? This is a political hot potato that the Administration can ill afford right now, and alienating the New York delegation isn't going to help matters.
You could get a case of whiplash with how quickly the Administration made an about face on the funding issue.
The White House confirmed it will more than double the budget for treating ill responders to $150 million in 2011.The White House still isn't backing the permanent treatment plan, but is pushing ahead with a doubling of the budget for treating sick responders for the short term.
The abrupt reversal came after the Daily News revealed New York lawmakers were shocked Wednesday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration does not support an $11 billion permanent treatment plan.
The White House is throwing money around at the New York delegation to make this go away; combine this with the decision to consider alternative locations for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his cohorts that AG Holder and the President said would go ahead in the SDNY in Lower Manhattan and you've got a White House that appears to be in disarray and running to cover its own bumbling and stumbling.