New York Daily News

November 29, 2010


EditorialsSenate Republicans must step up and pass Zadroga health bill for Ground Zero responders

The Senate returns to work today with the national honor hanging in the balance at the hands of this body's Republican minority.

They'll decide whether America at long last meets the country's obligation to sick World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers.

They'll decide whether the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is voted and signed into law.

GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will decide whether the U.S. turns it back on the thousands who rallied to the cause after 9/11 and paid with their health and their lives.

Vietnam War hero John McCain of Arizona will decide whether the U.S. will pay for care and compensation for citizen-soldiers whose lungs were damaged in the toxic air over The Pile.

Lamar Alexander, Tennessee; John Barrasso, Wyoming; Robert Bennett, Utah; Christopher Bond, Missouri; Scott Brown, Massachusetts; Sam Brownback, Kansas; Jim Bunning, Kentucky; Richard Burr, North Carolina; Saxby Chambliss, Georgia, and Tom Coburn, Oklahoma, will decide.

So, too, all the rest of the 41 Republicans now sitting in the Senate:

Thad Cochran, Mississippi; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tennessee; John Cornyn, Texas; Mike Crapo, Idaho; Jim DeMint, South Carolina; John Ensign, Nevada; Mike Enzi, Wyoming; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Judd Gregg, New Hampshire; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas; James Inhofe, Oklahoma; Johnny Isakson, Georgia; Mike Johanns, Nebraska; John Kyl, Arizona; George LeMieux, Florida; Richard Lugar, Indiana; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; James Risch, Idaho; Pat Robert, Kansas; Jeff Sessions, Alabama; Richard Shelby, Alabama; Olympia Snowe, Maine; John Thune, South Dakota; David Vitter, Louisiana; George Voinovich, Ohio, and Roger Wicker, Mississippi.

So, too, Mark Kirk, Illinois, who is slated to be sworn in today as the GOP's 42nd member.

Their names must be known. Their responsibility must be clear.

The House passed the Zadroga bill in September. Senate Democrats have 58 votes - a majority, but not enough for passage. Senate custom requires 60 votes. It is believed that Kirk is on board, leaving the legislation one vote shy of passage.

A lone vote. A single vote. A Republican vote.

Who will cast it?

By all rights, it should be McConnell. He wrested millions of dollars out of Congress to fund cancer screening and compensation for workers who built America's Cold War nuclear arsenal.

And, for employees of a plant in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell found funding to pay for screenings for current workers - not just former employees, as at other federal Energy Department sites. A McConnell reelection ad two years ago touted those workers as "patriots."

The tab for the Zadroga bill is $7.4 billion to be spent over many years. The House found the money by, among other things, closing a tax loophole. The Republicans say that maneuver amounts to a tax hike and, therefore, they will not go along.

They would do so at the expense of Americans who now live in all 50 states and have been left to cope with the illnesses that resulted from their service in New York.

One vote? No. The tally should be unanimous.