Now make a deal for the heroes of 9/11

NYPD officer James Zadroga

Last month, New York Congressman Joe Crowley recalled a light moment from a very dark time. "At the Concert for New York, my cousin, Mike Moran, who is a firefighter at 3 Engine down on 13th Street, told Osama Bin Laden that he can kiss his royal Irish a**," Crowley was quoted as saying.

"I'm not going to say that any senator who doesn't vote for this bill can kiss anything, but I will be thinking it."

Crowley was joined in Washington by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as well as New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

They were drumming up support for the so-called Zadroga Bill, which would deliver some $7 billion in aid to 9/11 first responders and their families.

These include quite a few Irish American families, whose prime years have turned into a nightmare of doctor’s visits and medication and bills, bills, bills, as mysterious illnesses have sapped first responders of time, strength and money.

A handful of Republican senators -- including Scott Brown, who sits in Irish American liberal lion Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat -- remain undecided on the Zadroga bill.

I consider myself neither Republican nor Democrat. I don’t see any reason to simply throw money at problems.

Yes, Washington should be careful with taxpayer money. This is basically what Republicans have been saying. Which is all well and good.

But when it comes to issues such as the Zadroga bill, it’s hard not to sound like an old-fashioned class warrior.

Billions for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! Billions to bail out the banks and car makers! Billions for the very people who got us into this economic mess in the first place!

And nothing? Nothing at all for guys who were just trying to clean up the mess in the wake of New York City’s darkest day?

No wonder Gillibrand -- rarely confused with a fiery populist -- slammed Republicans with unusually harsh language this week, saying the GOP was pushing a “pack of lies” about the possible costs of the Zadroga bill.

The news was filled, earlier this week, with much hype regarding a deal struck by President Obama and Republicans which maintained the so-called Bush-era tax cuts for the working class as well as millionaires.

Republicans were gleeful. And you know what? You want to prioritize tax cuts for millionaires? Fine. Whatever.

But if Democrats can strike a deal with Republicans on that issue, then it’s time for a handful of Republicans to reach across the aisle and make a deal which would allow the Zadroga bill to become a reality.

Congressman Peter King, for one, has stuck his own neck out. The GOP lawmaker has more or less berated his own party for refusing to support the Zadroga bill, named after former police officer James Zadroga, whose death was attributed to the time he spent at Ground Zero.

Let’s even pretend for a moment that the Republicans’ worst nightmares about the costs of the Zadroga bill were true. Let’s pretend it might even be an expensive “job killer,” as one Republican-leaning analysis put it.

Isn’t that a monumentally insensitive way to put things? Should we be more concerned about jobs that may or may not die, or people who are actually dying?

Yes, Washington is notorious for wasteful spending. Kudos to the Republicans for trying to tighten the purse strings.

As Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander lamented, “We don’t know what it costs. It isn’t the way we do things around here. It’s not the way I do things.”

Well, no. It doesn’t seem to be how you do things when it comes to this particular bill.

There are plenty of times when the GOP is more than willing to throw money around like the proverbial drunken sailor. More often than not, they want to throw money at people who already have a lot of it, at people who have not performed dangerous, heroic acts, and who are in no way shape or form in peril of dying as a result of those acts.

December 7, this week, was the 69th anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor, an event which shook a generation of Americans.

It would be terribly sad if, in the future, we make each and every 9/11 anniversary even more painful because we did nothing about those who are still dying and desperately need some help.

If we worried so much about a “job killer,” that we simply let people keep on dying.

(Contact “Sidewalks” at tomdeignan@earthlink.net or facebook.com/tomdeignan)

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