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Gillibrand's emotional plea for Zadroga bill

A file photo of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivering

A file photo of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivering her victory speech at a Democratic election night candidates party. (Nov. 2, 2010) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON - Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) choked up on the Senate floor Monday as she made an impassioned plea for passing the Zadroga 9/11 health bill, which will be brought up for debate and votes Wednesday.

Gillibrand became emotional as she read a note by New York City Police Office Robert Helmke describing his reaction to being diagnosed with a lethal form of cancer. The father of two died at age 43 in 2007.

"Talk about crushing news! My wife and I sat in the car and cried and I asked her what did I ever do to deserve this," she read with a strained voice.

The much-anticipated show down in the Senate was set for Wednesday when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed shortly before 6 p.m. for cloture, which is a motion to cut off a GOP filibuster.

Reid needs 60 votes to break the filibuster and proceed to a debate and an up-or-down majority vote on the Zadroga bill.

Gillibrand spokeswoman Bethany Lesser said Zadroga bill backers are still working to find the final GOP senator they need to reach 60 votes.

The $7.4 billion measure to help those sickened by toxic air and debris from the 9/11 attacks still faces resistance by Republicans, who raise concerns about its cost or its funding by closing a tax loophole used by foreign companies to avoid taxes.

Activist John Feal, of the Feal Good Foundation, said he planned to bring busloads of 9/11 first responders, relatives and supporters for a final round of lobbying today.

That group is scheduled to be joined by politicians this afternoon for a Pearl Harbor Day rally comparing that sneak attack on the United States on Dec. 7, 1941 with the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.


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