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Republicans Say No to $2B for 9/11 Heroes

We Will Not Forget

Senate dumps Hillary's bid for medical aid.

and MICHAEL McAULIFF in Washington

Senate Republicans killed a bid for nearly $2 billion to help sick 9/11 responders yesterday - blocking the measure without letting it come up for a vote.

Senate leaders invoked parliamentary rules, saying Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) amendment to a measure funding port security was not "germane."

People suffering the effects from 9/11's toxic dust were outraged by the move.

"How could they just throw this out?" said Laura Picurro, of Toms River, N.J., whose husband, Joe, became disabled after doing volunteer iron work at Ground Zero.

"Maybe they should talk to these sick and dying workers," she said. "I find it absurd they didn't even consider it."

Clinton's amendment would have provided $5,800 a year for five years for each person sickened from Ground Zero exposure. She vowed to resubmit the measure or propose other legislation to help responders and nearby residents. "Their country should answer their calls for help," Clinton said.

Although Clinton got stiffed on money for the sick, she did obtain passage of a measure to create a national monitoring system to keep tabs on people who suffer from responding to future attacks or disasters.

Mayor Bloomberg, who has been reluctant to link the illnesses of 9/11 responders to their service, said he "absolutely" endorsed Clinton's proposal.

"This was a national attack on the country, and I think the federal government has a responsibility," he said. "We cannot handle this ourselves. We just don't have enough money."

He also inched toward accepting the idea that the workers' time at Ground Zero is making them sick - a proposition the city has resisted as it fights lawsuits from victims.

"Clearly, people who worked on the site, or the closer they were, the more symptoms they have that are very troublesome," Bloomberg said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), who has been pushing the city and federal governments to do more, said she was encouraged by the mayor's statement. "The city's response is getting better by the day. Hopefully, the mayor will be able to get the Bush administration to face up to its responsibilities," she said.

The FDNY's top medical officer also spelled out grim details of the health problems spawned by 9/11 in a City Council committee hearing yesterday.

Dr. Kerry Kelly said the department found declining lung function among its members was 12 times worse after 9/11 than the five years before. She added that thousands had improved after treatment, however.

After the hearing, union leaders slammed Congress. "Our call for help is being ignored," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

Originally published on September 15, 2006


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