NEW YORK—The House Energy and Commerce Committee will vote on the 9/11 Health Bill Tuesday. U.S. representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, and Anthony Weiner came together with other supporters to discuss the bill outside the World Trade Center Sunday.
The 9/11 Health Bill aims to make permanent the existing federal programs that provide medical monitoring for those exposed to toxins from the World Trade Center towers' collapse of 2001. The bill also aims to ensure treatment for illnesses and injuries resulted from the Sept. 11 attacks by providing comprehensive health care and compensation to the affected individuals.
Proponents of the bill have said that the passing of the bill is a test of moral responsibility of the U.S. government. According to them, the government has an ethical obligation to compensate for the health care of those whose health was affected by the World Trade Center attacks, since the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically cleared air quality standards for those working in the World Trade Center area after the attacks.
Rep. Nadler stressed that it was not just the terrorists who harmed those in the area of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks, but also the federal government.
“The reason that these first responders, residents, workers, and school children are sick or will get sick is not just because we were attacked … but it's because of the malfeasance of the federal government, which told them the air is safe to breathe. The EPA said the air is safe to breathe,” he said.
Nadler accused the federal government of “essentially lying about the what was going on when they knew what was going on.” Now, he argued, they must be held morally responsible by providing funds for the health care of those who were harmed.
Rep. Weiner, a strong proponent of the bill, has been working in Congress to get the bill passed for the past eight years.
Speaking to Congress on March 16, he said: “How are we going to deal with people who showed heroism … [and] went down to that pile with a paper mask, when the chief environmental officer of our country was giving people respirators who went to the pentagon … and said to people who went to my city [New York City] … here it's safe.”
The president of the Uniform Fire Fighters Association, Steve Cassidy, pointed to the selfless and uninhibited response of the firefighters, who are now often unrecognized and ignored. Referring to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, he stated that firefighters exposed to the toxins in the Sept. 11 attacks lost, on average, 12 years of lung capacity “within a blink of an eye.”
Cassidy said that if the currently suffering firefighters are not given the correct health care response, “when there is another attack on this country, not if, when there is another attack on this country, maybe first responders will think about what will happen to them and their families if they get sick.”
“That is a bad recipe for the future of this country,” he added.
Tuesday's vote will be an important one. Though it comes long after the Sept. 11 attacks, all three members of Congress expressed optimism about the ultimate fate of the bill.