New York Post
April 2, 2008

'ZERO' FOR HEROES, SAYS NY-BASH POL

By DAPHNE RETTER
Post Correspondent

    Rep. Darrel Issa (above), just after  ...
  Rep. Darrel Issa (above), just after retired NYPD cop Michael Valetin (below) had testified about his serious respiratory problems since working at Ground Zero.
  ... retired NYPD cop Michael Valetin (below) had testified about his serious respiratory problems since working at Ground Zero.

WASHINGTON. A California congressman drew the fury of New York lawmakers yesterday — after he said the feds shouldn't pay another dime to help the 9/11 emergency responders who became ill after working at Ground Zero.

"I have to ask why . . . the firefighters who went there and everyone in the City of New York needs to come to the federal government," Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican, said during a House subcommittee hearing.

"How much money has the federal government put out post-9/11, including the buckets of $10 and $20 billion we just threw at the State and the City of New York versus how much has been paid out by the City and the State of New York?" Issa asked.

"It's very simple: I can't vote for additional money for New York if I can't see why it would be appropriate to do this every single time a similar situation happens, which quite frankly includes any urban terrorist. It doesn't have to be somebody from al Qaeda. It can be someone who decides that they don't like animal testing at one of our pharmaceutical facilities."

Just minutes after a retired New York City police officer, Michael Valentin, had labored through an emotional description of the serious health problems he has endured since rushing to Ground Zero, Issa downplayed the severity of the attack.

Issa said the destruction of the World Trade Center did not involve a dirty bomb or a chemical weapon designed to make people sick.

"It simply was an aircraft, residue of the aircraft and residue of the materials used to build this building," Issa said.

Sitting nearby, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens) was visibly enraged at Issa's remarks.

"The notion that this is the City of New York asking for more money because we were the point of attack on this country is absurd and insulting," Weiner fumed.

Weiner said after the hearing that Issa's comments were some of the worst "New York-bashing" he has heard on the Hill.

"I've never heard anyone speak with such contempt about our heroes as Mr. Issa did today. There was a good reason that he made his remarks and then slithered out of the committee room," Weiner said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), who chaired the hearing, also defended the emergency responders.

"They gave up their health for the balance of their years because this country was attacked," Nadler said.

New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, who testified at the hearing, blasted Issa's statement that New York was trying to get the federal government to pick up the tab for something that should be a state and city responsibility.

"Congressman, this was I believe an attack on the United States of America. It was located at Ground Zero, but it was an attack on America," Cardozo said.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said his boss opposes any federal effort to continue funding the now-expired victims' fund, because the case has not been made for "which unique factors make this different" from wildfires in California or the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996, which killed 167 people.

daphne.retter@nypost.com