9/11 Responders Frustrated With Obama’s Mosque Comments

Ailing 9/11 responders slam Obama for sounding off on mosque while keeping silent on health bill.

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BY Erin Einhorn, Adam Lisberg and Richard Sisk
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Ailing 9/11 responders slammed President Obama on Tuesday for sounding off on the Ground Zero mosque while keeping silent on a $7.2 billion health care bill.

"Why have you failed us? We thought you would be our champion" in pushing the legislation, John Feal wrote to Obama.

One of the thousands who worked at The Pile after the World Trade Center attacks, Feal heads the Fealgood Foundation supporting the responders.

The plight of the Ground Zero heroes, still suffering and dying from illnesses brought on by the toxic cloud over the twin towers' ruins, has taken a backseat to the political posturing over the mosque, Feal said.

The mosque's location "is not an issue for us," he told Obama.

"It is disturbing that you have the time and energy to speak in favor of the mosque, but not on the health crisis caused by the attacks," said Feal, who lost part of a foot when a steel beam fell on him during cleanup work.

New York state Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens), who has worked closely with the responders on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, seconded their complaints about Obama.

"While I welcome President Obama's comments on religious freedom, I can understand why John Feal and his fellow 9/11 responders would want to hear that the President supports their cause, too," Maloney said.

The White House did not immediately comment.

The Zadroga bill failed to muster a necessary two-thirds vote last month. GOP opponents called it a money grab by New York and said it would raise taxes.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) denounced the bill as a "slush fund paid by taxpayers that is open to abuse, fraud and waste." [See which industries donate the most money to Smith.]

New York's House delegation has been pressing to bring the bill back for a simple majority vote next month.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to seek a floor vote. As Reid broke with Obama on Monday and called for the mosque to be built "someplace else," his spokesman added, "If the Republicans are being sincere, they would help us pass this long-overdue bill." [See who donates the most money to Reid.]

Mayor Bloomberg took a swipe yesterday at Republicans who opposed the bill yet say the proposed mosque is insensitive to 9/11 families.

"I would never use the word 'hypocritic' [sic] - never," Bloomberg said with a smile in Philadelphia during a mid-Atlantic swing to endorse candidates.

"It is somewhat inconsistent, I suppose," he said later in Washington.

That got no argument from state Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who opposes the mosque location but backs the Zadroga bill.

"It is offensive to have a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, but it's also offensive to let firefighters die with pulverized glass in their lungs," King said. "It should be looked upon as a related issue."

The GOP made clear yesterday it will keep hammering on the mosque issue in a drive to take back Congress.

"It's important to voters right now," said Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the National Congressional Republican Committee. "President Obama's decision shows just how out of touch he is."