Prayer shame for lawmakers blocking 9/11 responder bill

Those using the Zadroga Act as a political bargaining chip need to be called to task for their actions

It didn't take long for Tuesday's tragic mass shooting in San Bernardino, California to turn political. It is, after all, election season. And those on both sides of the gun-control debate are using the incident as an arguing point for their cause.

One of the tactics deployed by the anti-gun group is "prayer shaming." It's a relatively new term that basically comes down to one side criticizing the other side for offering thoughts and prayers over actions.

There's a time and place for prayer shaming in the fire service and that time is now.

The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is a piece of legislation from 2010 that expired this October. It provides medical care and financial assistance to responders who assisted with rescue and recovery efforts after the 9/11 attacks. Many of these responders are dying of some pretty nasty illnesses directly connected to their work at the World Trade Center.

Fire service lobbying groups and other professional organizations have been pushing hard for Congress to renew this legislation. And this week, it looked to be a done deal.

Political football
The bill was attached to a massive, multiyear transportation bill that Congress was expected to pass before breaking for the holidays. Then, according to reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stripped Zadroga from the transportation bill.

Renewing the Zadroga Act has now moved back into the "tit for tat" negotiations of how to pay for the bill and what are its champions willing to concede in other areas to see it come up for a vote.

Some will call me shameful for comparing a piece of legislation that affects a relatively small population to the horrors of San Bernardino.

Make no mistake; that tragedy deeply moved me. Yet, so too did the death of former FDNY Batt. Chief James Costello who died two weeks ago of cancer he contracted working at the World Trade Center. He was only 52.

Arguably I'm an unapologetic advocate for the fire service. And I find it shameful that politicians can fall all over themselves to get in front of firefighters and news cameras every Sept. 11 to offer thoughts and prayers, only to turn their backs on those like Chief Costello when real actions are needed.

You may not know anyone who has been the victim of a mass shooting, but if you are not mentally deranged or a terrorist, those victims represent all of us because such an attack can happen anywhere. Likewise, you may not know any responders who were exposed to World Trade Center toxins, but they represent all firefighters. What happened in New York could happen to any of us.

And if it did happen to any of us, would a firefighter pause before rendering aid to negotiate a trade out for political goodies, or withhold help until they got more money? Of course not; that would be shameful.

I urge you to do as I have and take action by telling your senator and House representative that you expect their action on this bill — it's as simple as texting "911" to 877877. 

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