New York City firefighters will travel to Washington, D.C., to urge the Senate to vote to extend aid for Ground Zero first responders when it comes to the floor for a vote on Tuesday.
The bill would guarantee funding for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund for 75 years.
Mayor de Blasio said last week that at least 200 firefighters have died from illnesses related to 9/11.
“This is something that will continue to happen,” said Gerald Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. “Unfortunately, it’s a reminder here in New York City sometimes daily of the sick dying.”
Fitzgerald and other FDNY members are going down to Washington Tuesday for the vote. The Senate is scheduled to take up proposed amendments from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) which was part of a deal to bring the bill to a vote. Paul had criticized the legislation saying extending the fund, which expires at the end of the year, would be too expensive.
Fitzgerald said he was not happy with the timing of Paul’s comments.
“To pick and choose which bill or which topic you’re going to be fiscally responsible on and the way he did it… his motive was to get headlines and he got them,” he said.
But Fitzgerald remained confident the measure will be approved. He and union member George Farinacci plan to travel down to try to get a spot in the Senate for the vote.
“We are urging our senators to step up and vote yes,” said Farinacci. “Make this right.”
Both are confident the Senate will follow the House which passed the bill in June. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he does not foresee any hiccups.
“It’s hard to see anything that will get in the way,” said Sen. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday. “We persist and most of all, the first responders persist.”
The vote is long-awaited for advocates of Ground Zero first responders. In June, former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart shamed Congress for stalling on the bill. Stewart and former NYPD detective Luis Alvarez each gave emotional testimonies during a House committee hearing on the effects of illnesses on responders and their families. Alvarez died of complications from cancer later that month.
“There’s a human element to this,” said Fitzgerald. These folks need this money to continue their lives and if they’re going to pass, their families need this money to stay in or maintain their homes or fulfill the dreams they had to their loved ones in the future.”