Joseph Zadroga was mystified Thursday about how Republican senators could block the legislation, named for his son, to compensate Ground Zero workers for illnesses stemming from breathing in toxic fumes and dust near the World Trade Center site.
"They take care of everybody else in the world that's sick, but they can't take care of our own people," he said. "I just don't understand it."
Zadroga, whose son is the namesake for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, went to Washington this week to lobby Republican senators who expressed reservations about the $7.4-billion bill.
He went to the nation's capital nervous, he said. But back home Thursday in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., where he lives with his wife and 8-year-old granddaughter, he said it was "discouraging" that the Senate Thursday had failed to break a Republican filibuster.
"Everybody says they feel for you and they understand, and then when it comes time to step to the plate and come forward, they vote no and disregard what you say," said Zadroga, whose son, an NYPD officer, died five years after working at Ground Zero.
He added: "They don't understand how hard it is for these first responders, how much they're suffering."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against the bill to leave himself the option of bringing it up again before year's end. Zadroga said he hopes it is approved before the holidays end.
"It could have been a good Christmas present for the first responders who are dying," he said. "Every month we lose a couple. It's going to increase as the time goes on."
But Zadroga said he won't give up fighting for the bill that bears his son's name.
"It was something, we promised we would do when my son passed away," he said. "And we're doing it."