In a late afternoon Senate floor verbal dustup Friday, Sen. Charles Schumer lambasted Sen. John McCain for characterizing time spent debating the Zadroga 9/11 health bill as "fooling around."

Congressional Democrats were working to secure Senate ratification of a new arms control treaty before the holiday break when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) asked if there could be a "time agreement" on the debate, as it was getting late.

McCain (R-Ariz.) dismissed the idea, saying that, "after all the fooling around that we've been doing on the DREAM act, on New York City, on all of these other issues that [have] taken up our time, we will not have a time agreement . . . until all members on this [the Republican] side have had an opportunity to express their views."

Shortly afterward, Schumer went to the Senate floor to denounce McCain's comments.

"Mr. President, this is not fooling around," Schumer said. "These men and the thousands of others who rushed to the towers on 9/11 and in the days thereafter were not fooling around."

Noting McCain's Navy service, Schumer continued: "They, just like my colleague from Arizona, were risking their lives. It was like a time of war. The bottom line is that we were attacked, and without asking any questions, the police and firefighters, the construction workers and EMT workers who rushed to the towers risked their lives."

Responding later on the floor, McCain said, "For the senator from New York to somehow interpret that as me being critical of the bill itself is an incredible stretch of the imagination, and I resent it."

Still, in a statement, Sen Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said he found McCain's comments "shocking."

The Zadroga Act would provide 10 years of health care for responders and survivors ailing from the toxic plume that engulfed lower Manhattan after the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

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