WASHINGTON - The wheeling and dealing - and citizen lobbying - continues Wednesday as the Senate for the first time will take up the $7.4 billion Zadroga 9/11 health care bill, even though its sponsors say they're still one vote short.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Zadroga's chief Senate sponsor, conceded she's still in search of that elusive GOP vote, the 60th needed to end a GOP filibuster on the bill and to allow it to come up for debate and a majority vote.
"We are very close. We have a dozen senators who are considering voting for this bill right now," she said to applause and cheers of the busloads of New Yorkers brought here to push for the bill.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized Republicans who seek to make their votes on Zadroga conditional on accepting the Obama tax deal with Republican leaders. He was referring to a recent letter signed by all GOP senators saying they wouldn't vote on any bills in the lame duck session until the issue of the Bush tax cuts is dealt with.
"It's quite unnerving to hear some people on the other side say that unless you take care of tax breaks for the rich I won't vote" for Zadroga, Schumer said. "I say to my colleagues that it's time to stop playing politics."
The citizen lobbyists appeared weary and wary on the eve of today's vote. The bill first must clear the filibuster with 60 ayes before debate and a final vote can be held.
Although Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) sent a letter to GOP senators urging a yes vote, the response Tuesday to visits by the local lobbyists to GOP and even some reluctant Democrats was not encouraging, said retired New York Police Officer James Ryder, 47, a first-responder from Commack. Some staff had not heard of the bill. Others objected to the financing.
Activist John Feal, who organized the trip, said, "I am tired of hearing elected officials talking about politics."