Lawmakers vowed Sunday that they would not leave the halls of Congress without a vote on a permanent bill to cover healthcare costs for Sept. 11 first responders and survivors.
The leaders rallied in the shadow of the World Trade Center days after both the House of Representatives and Senate voted on an omnibus bill that, despite promises to include the legislation, was inexplicably taken out at the last minute.
“While everyone else was running away from this spot, running for safety, they ran towards the towers,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who accused her colleagues dubious about funding for the approximately $7 billion bill, of using “empty words” about the 9/11 attacks.
Gillibrand said the bill is not a partisan issue, despite lawmakers allowing the 2010 Zadroga Act to expire in September.
“I don’t think there’s a person in Congress who would stand up and say they’re against the 9/11 health bill,” she added. “But what what they haven’t shown is the sense of urgency that these families have — the sense of urgency that our first responders have every day when they do their jobs.”
Sen. Charles Schumer said the Democratic leadership stands ready to support the bill, which lawmakers and supporters said has no earmarks for unrelated projects.
The bill is expected to be reintroduced in one of two legislative packages in the next few days, right before its scheduled holiday recess beginning Dec. 18 through Jan. 8, 2016.
But Schumer lambasted Congressional Republicans for what he said was “days of horse trading” before the lawmakers take vacation.
“We don’t trade the lives of our first responders for anything,” Schumer said. “How dare you trade the lives of our first responders for your little political gain?”
Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, told NBC News that the bill would “get done by the end of the year.”