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Robert M.
Democrat NJ

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  • Zadroga Bill Funding

    by Senator Robert Menendez

    Posted on 2015-12-09

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    MENENDEZ. Mr. President, as we are all awaiting those who are negotiating a multibillion-dollar omnibus package and tax extender package, I wanted to come to the floor at this time of the year, as we approach the [[Page S8527]] holidays, and say that it would be unconscionable that we would go home to celebrate with our families without doing everything we can to make sure we send a clear and unambiguous message to our first responders-- in the name of Jim Zadroga from New Jersey, for whom the 9/11 bill, the Zadroga bill, is named, and all those who responded on that fateful day--that we will never forget what they did for our fellow citizens, for this Nation on September 11, the day that changed the world.

    We shouldn't have had to wait this long for the law to expire. At the same time, we are being told that we can't pass the legislation because we have to offset it. Yet we are talking about passing an $800 billion tax package, much of which goes to large corporations. I haven't heard any of my colleagues speak about the need to pay for this nearly trillion-dollar package which will deprive the Federal Treasury of anywhere between $800 billion and $1 trillion. Only the men and women who put their lives on the line on September 11 and the days that followed are waiting for Congress to act because we supposedly have to pay for the way in which we take care of their health care or the way in which we take care of the families, for those who lose a loved one as a result of the toxins and other circumstances that have led to their illnesses, that have led to their deaths. And unfortunately, we have seen a rising number of those individuals who responded on that fateful day who have died, including one very recently.

    I don't understand how the rules don't apply to large corporations that will reap billions of dollars, but somehow those rules are asserted when we are trying to take care of the men and women who responded on that fateful day of September 11. I don't understand how there is any moral equivalency between them. There is none, and no one can claim there is any.

    None of us can leave Washington for the holidays without passing this bill.

    I would remind my colleagues of the immortal words of Charles Dickens in ``A Christmas Carol'': I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on their journeys.

    We should keep those words in mind as we approach the holidays. Beyond that, this isn't about the holiday spirit, it is about obligation. We should accept our profound, collective responsibility-- not charity but responsibility--to act on this legislation. If we do not, and if we continue to insist on pay-for provisions when we don't insist on the same provisions that would provide benefits to America's largest corporations to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, we should be ashamed of ourselves.

    I don't know which one of my colleagues can go to a September 11 commemoration and look those first responders in the eye. I don't know how you do that. The reauthorization bill I have cosponsored is necessary to provide the security and reassurances to those first responders that these critical programs will last longer than just what the next couple of months' funding will provide. It also permanently lists the statute of limitations on the Victim Compensation Fund to provide for those first responders and their families who need access beyond next year and, very importantly, it exempts these key programs from the budget sequestration cuts. The sequestration, which I voted against, imposes arbitrary and capricious cuts to funding that will continue to provide care and support for those September 11 heroes who sacrificed everything to help those in need on that tragic day.

    The fact is, Congress must act. I don't think we should wait for a public outcry before we ensure that these heroes receive the care and support they deserve. I don't think we should wait for a future tragedy to observe what we should have done. The brave men and women who rushed into the towers to save others did not wait or hesitate to respond. They did not think about themselves. They did not think about the risk. They valiantly responded, and we--we--should not hesitate or wait to respond to their needs. To do so would be absolutely shameful.

    With that, I yield the floor.

    Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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