It's still unbelievable that the vote was not unanimous. The vote was 268 to 160, sufficient to pass.
The bill had previously come up for a vote at the end of July, but was defeated 255-159 when the Democrats demanded that the bill require 2/3 majority to prevent Republicans from attaching any riders to the legislation and Republicans in turn voted against the sorely needed legislation to aid workers affected by their work at Ground Zero during the recovery and relief efforts.
"This is not a New York issue, our nation was attacked and those who are suffering come from all 50 states, and 428 of the 435 congressional districts nationwide -- nearly every member of Congress -- has constituents who lost their health because of the attacks," said Democratic Manhattan-Queens Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, one of the bill's sponsors.Ground Zero responders came from around the country and indeed from around the world to help recover the remains of those murdered on 9/11 and some of them have suffered horribly from the inhalation of a melange of chemicals and materials pulverized by the collapsing towers and set alight by the multiple fires that raged for weeks following the attacks. More than a few responders have died with the cause of death attributed to their exposures at Ground Zero.
"The EPA, despite ample evidence to the contrary, kept falsely proclaiming that the air was safe to breathe. It wasn't," said Democratic Manhattan-Brooklyn Congressman Jerrold Nadler, another sponsor of the bill. "The terrorists caused an environmental catastrophe but the federal government compounded the damage by telling people that the environment was safe when it wasn't, and now thousands of people are sick and in need of special care. We have a moral obligation to treat those who became ill, and that's what this bill is all about."
"The toxins are in their blood. All of that now is coming forward," said Republican Long Island Congressman Peter King, another sponsor of the bill. "You see people in the prime of life -- 40, 50 years old, people who run marathons, people who were in the peak of shape -- dying slowly in front of us."
Critics have complained that the fund would be open to fraud and abuse, and funding for the program.
There are ways to ensure that the funding goes where it is supposed to and that only those who deserve compensation receive it. But to deny all these workers compensation and adequate care for doing the selfless work of trying to rescue and recover the victims of the 9/11 attacks is simply abhorrent.