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Help 9/11 heroes ; GOP must back legislation to provide medical care

Legislation important to the ongoing medical care of those whom America has deemed as "heroes" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks deserves passage in Congress as soon as possible.

Supporters of the 9/1 1 bill, which Republican senators have blocked, are hoping for a last-minute reprieve. It's important to get this legislation through this session before Republicans take control of the House and, therefore, it's important to get full support.

The legislation would provide medical care to rescue workers and others who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at the site of the World Trade Center attack in 2001.

This issue affects rescue workers in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties who have enrolled in the World Trade Center Registry, which was devised for aid workers who traveled to New York from across the state after 9/1 1 and developed health problems as a result.

Clarence Republican Chris Lee voted against a version that was approved by the House of Representatives in September. We hope he will rethink that decision. We also hope newly elected Rep. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, will also support this important legislation.

Lee, co-sponsor of an earlier version of this legislation, believes the bill got bogged down by politics. Cost for the $7 billion measure also became an issue, especially as it relates to how it would be taken from the budget -- by rescinding a tax cut afforded to foreign-owned companies with operations in the United States.

Doing so, in effect, would raise taxes on American workers, Lee believes, because operating fees would increase and put in jeopardy the opportunity for unemployed workers to get jobs at those companies.

Still, there has to be a way both parties can work together to get the legislation passed, while preserving American jobs. Democrats have offered various ways to fund the legislation and if Republicans don't like how it's set up, they need to offer counterproposals to move the bill toward passage.

Meanwhile, Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, lead sponsor, and Charles E. Schumer, both New York Democrats, have fought hard for the bill's passage. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-Manhattan, is the lead sponsor in the House.

The James Zadroga 9/1 1 Health and Compensation Act, is named after a New York police detective who helped in rescue efforts at ground zero. He eventually developed breathing complications not uncommon to first responders at ground zero and died in January 2006.

Whether his death was a result of his actions at ground zero has come under question but anyone exposed to toxic fumes is liable to suffer health problems. A little common sense doesn't hurt here.

For some reason, Republicans have thrown up roadblocks on this legislation and moderates, afraid of primary challenges from the right, are reluctant to act. The legislation has been falsely portrayed as an "entitlement program," possibly causing moderates to fear the political repercussions.

The 9/1 1 legislation can hardly be characterized as an "entitlement program." But even then, shouldn't ground zero rescue workers be entitled to the type of medical care this bill provides? These are brave people we are talking about and many are suffering.

Reed and especially Lee need to convey to their party the importance of this legislation. Republicans need to find a way to make this work. And President Obama needs to take an interest. He's been on the sidelines and he doesn't belong there.

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