The following are the Mayor’s remarks as delivered today at the US Capitol.
“Senator, thank you, and thank you for introducing the legislation that would establish a sustained, long-term 9/11 health program and that’s what this is all about. The men and women who assisted in the rescue and recovery mission after the devastating attacks of 9/11 are fortunate to have effective advocates such as you and Senator Schumer fighting on their behalf here in Washington, as well as our New York delegation in the House – and they’re all here, too many to mention, but Peter and Carolyn and Anthony and Jerry, everybody else – thank you. You’ve done your part, now it’s up to the Senate.
“And we all know this is an issue of national importance. The destruction of the World Trade Center was an attack – and the attack on the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania – these were acts of war against the United States, and the ongoing health care is part of the results of that attack. So this really is a national duty to do something here.
“As you know, the House version of the 9/11 health care bill is about two months old, and President Obama has already made clear his intention to sign the bill into law, if it is passed, if it comes to his desk. And so now the responsibility rests with the nation’s senators, who, just like those who assisted in the relief and recovery efforts, hail from all 50 states, as did the victims who died on that day and the people who are getting sick today. They came from all 50 states, and some of them from around the world. And that means that when this piece of legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote – which we hope will happen very soon – every single U.S. Senator will have a stake in the outcome.
“All of our senators represent someone who answered the call to help our country in its hour of need, and now those brave men and women need our senators to answer their call for help. Many of them are already struggling with health problems. Some are battling serious illnesses; others may have to confront them in the future. And while we can’t prevent anyone from contracting an illness, we can and must ensure sustained funding to treat those who are sick, or could become sick, to continue researching World Trade Center health effects, and to re-open the Victims’ Compensation Fund so that those who worked at Ground Zero and did not show such symptoms until after the Fund’s deadline passed, can receive fair and just compensation. We owe at least that much to the firefighters, police officers, construction workers, community members, and volunteers from across America who contributed to the heroic task of saving lives, and then clearing the debris from the World Trade Center.
“That is what I’ve come to Washington to say. I’ve said it privately to some senators I’ve already met with today. I’m saying it publicly here. You know, New York City did not wait for federal support to address the health impacts of 9/11. In the beginning, New York City funded the launch and expansion of the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center at our own Health and Hospitals Corporation. And under the 9/11 Health bill, we would continue to shoulder some of the cost of care provided at our public hospitals and clinics. But today, many of our World Trade Center Centers of Excellence, including the program at Mount Sinai, and the Fire Department of New York’s WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program also rely on federal appropriations from Congress. And in order to continue providing clinical services in the future, they must continue to receive such funding.
“The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act provides for the long-term sustainability of these programs and also the efforts of the World Trade Center Health Registry, which represents our greatest tool for understanding and monitoring the health impacts of 9/11. And until the Senate passes a 9/11 Health bill, the future of all these critical programs – and the lives of many of our most patriotic citizens – remain in jeopardy. New York, and every other state in the nation, is counting on the U.S. Senate to do the right thing, and to do it right now.
“Two months ago we observed the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and before you know it, the tenth anniversary will be upon us. We cannot wait any longer for action on this legislation. Let us work together – both sides of the aisle, now – to ensure that all those who survived the attacks, and all those who risked their lives to save others, receive the health care they need and that they deserve. This is an American obligation, and we all have to come together and make sure it is an obligation that we stand up to and fulfill.”