The clock has already started ticking on a new bill to aid 9/11 responders.
Backers of the new proposal say if they don’t get it passed by Christmas, it may never go through.
“America is too great a country to shirk this duty. We are too strong, too proud, too patriotic, and this is the week that we have to show it,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at a news conference Monday with the bill’s supporters, including Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem.)
At least 60 senators are needed to block a GOP-led filibuster of the bill, which provides $6.2 billion in health aid to responders who got sick from working at Ground Zero. King said some Republicans in Congress view the money as an “entitlement program.”
Rescuers at Ground Zero, however, are disheartened over Congress’ failure to act.
“That day I knew what my job was and I did it without hesitation,” said Jim Ryder, a retired NYPD police officer who said he now suffers from post-traumatic stress and a heart ailment. “My saddest day as a Republican without a doubt is to witness them playing football with a bill that should be an exception to every rule.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is helping spearhead the bill, said on CBS’ “Early Show” on Monday that reducing its cost from $7.4 billion has gotten more senators on board.
The House passed a version of the bill in September, but since the funding amount changed, members need to approve it again.
But it’s a sensitive timetable: With Christmas on Saturday, rallying enough lawmakers in Washington, D.C., before the end of the year may prove difficult. And both the Senate and the House would have to pass the legislation before Congress adjourns Jan. 4.
If they don’t, the process would have to begin again under a GOP-controlled House.
“Next year, odds are the new Congress would not be sympathetic (to the bill),” said political analyst Jerry Kremer.