James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:  Pete King
Date: Sept. 29, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KING of New York. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 847, and at the outset, let me commend my colleagues, Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, for the truly outstanding job they've done for all these years and for their directness and for their candor and for always being there when the tough decisions had to be made.

Let me also thank former Congressman Vito Fossella for the work that he did for a number of years when he was here in the Congress on this bill as well.

Let me commend the leadership in both parties. I commend the Democratic leadership for bringing this back up for a majority vote. I commend them for it. I know it's been tough. Some tough decisions had to be made, and they've made them. I thank them for that. I also thank the leadership for the Republican Party for working with a number of us to make sure that it would be a fair and open vote and debate here today. So I thank them for that.

Let me also say that all of us know this has been a long and tortuous route to get this bill to the House floor today. During that time, there's been frustration, tempers have flared, but also, probably most importantly, people have died, and that's what we have to keep in mind. This is a real human issue. We have people sitting here in the gallery today. Many of them have breathing problems. Many of them have pulverized glass in their lungs. Many have poisonous toxins in their bloodstream. So this is real. This is a real human issue.

And I share some of the concerns that Republicans have regarding, for instance, the funding stream, how this is going to be paid for. But the fact is, this is a good bill. We cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. It's more important to me, I believe, that we take care of those who are truly in need and we look at the bill in full perspective and in full view and keep that in mind. Keep in mind the victims, the men and women who went to Ground Zero on September 11 and stayed there for the days, weeks, and months afterward, and they were on that pile, and they're now suffering the most horrible diseases, diseases and illnesses which we see in our districts when we meet these people. We see them in the stores. We see them at ball games. We see them in church. So this, again, is for real.

So let's, today, try to have the debate as we are, I think, in a very civil way. Let's realize there are honest differences of opinions on both sides, but the reality is, the people in galleries, those who couldn't make it to the gallery today, they don't have the luxury of waiting another 1 year or 2 years or 3 years or 4 years.

I know that people on the Republican side have spoken about various programs that are available. The fact is this is such a unique type of disaster. The illnesses that have come from Ground Zero are very unique to Ground Zero, unfortunately. These are 9/11-type illnesses--the rarest types of cancer, the rarest types of blood disorders. It's essential we have a permanent registry so we will know exactly how these illnesses be treated, so that those in the other 430 districts around the country who could be suffering, for instance, from a cough, which a doctor may think is an innocent cough, will not realize it is a 9/11 cough; those who have symptoms which may otherwise be undetected, they will not realize how significant they are and how they could be directly related to 9/11.

And also, as far as whether or not this is an entitlement, or whatever term we want to use, the fact is, when it came to nuclear workers, Federal nuclear workers, we set up the exact same type of program. Call it entitlement, if you will. That program was set up to take care and compensate those who suffered serious illnesses resulting from their work in nuclear plants on nuclear projects.

As far as the issue of the Victims Compensation Fund and all those who were compensated, the fact is the people we are talking about today, the victims we are talking about today, were people who didn't realize their illness until after the deadline had expired, people who are today just finding out

[Page: H7246] GPO's PDF

about their illness. It's latent. It's in their bloodstreams. It's in their lungs. And back in 2003 when this program closed, virtually no one knew the extent of the illnesses and diseases that would stem from September 11.

The fact is they are there and they are getting worse and worse, and, as you know, Congressman Weiner just walked in, and he and I always haven't had the highest things to say about each other on the House floor. We're standing here together on this bill today. As he pointed out in the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, the one thing we can be certain of is that the number of those who are entitled to take part in this program, that number is going to diminish. It is going to diminish because they're dying one by one. So let's keep that in mind.

Again, it goes to the heart of what we should be as a Congress, what we should be as Republicans and Democrats, what we should be as Americans. And those of us, we all stood together on September 11, and 9 years have gone by. And to many people it's something that happened a long time ago, but for those who are suffering today, it's something they live with every moment.

So, with that, I urge everyone to make this as much of a bipartisan vote as possible. Send a message to the country, send a message to the world, and send a message to the victims that they are not forgotten. And not only that, we're not giving them any charity. We're not giving them anything. We're just rewarding them what they're entitled to receive for them putting their lives on the line for us.

With that, I urge adoption of H.R. 847.