9/11 Responders Health Bill May Hit Senate Floor

Senate Democrats will try to attach the legislation to a military funding bill Tuesday.

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BY Michael Mcauliff
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats will try to attach 9/11 legislation to a military funding bill Tuesday in a surprise gambit to break a logjam on help for victims, the Daily News has learned.

The amendment would be identical to the $7.4 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act pending in the House. Senate passage would raise the chances of getting the measure to President Obama, who vows to sign it.

The measure to provide care for thousands of people sickened by exposure to Ground Zero would be offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has the support of Majority Leader Harry Reid and other key Democrats, she and other sources confirmed.

"We have an undeniable moral obligation to pass this legislation and provide care to the thousands of heroes and survivors who are suffering and dying," Gillibrand said.

There is, however, a major catch. Republicans are mounting a filibuster of the bill because Reid has also added an amendment to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy," and another to grant kids of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship if they are in the armed services or college.

Gillibrand won't be able to offer the 9/11 amendment unless the GOP relents on the filibuster.

"It's going to be tough to break the filibuster," admitted one Democratic aide. "But definitely, if we can get it done, we'd have a majority for the 9/11 bill."

It takes a three-fifths vote - 60 senators - to end a filibuster.

The 9/11 legislation has also run into unexpected complications in the House.

Advocates had won promises from leaders that it would be brought to a vote this week and expected it would be on the calendar for Wednesday. It is not.

Proponents of the bill were furious, sources said. They spent the weekend peppering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer with demands to make good on promises.

"They're cowards," said one 9/11 responder. "If they believe in something, they should be willing to stand up for it."

Some Democratic leaders fear Republicans will add a toxic measure to the bill dealing with a hot-button issue such as immigration, gun rights or abortion.

Even Mayor Bloomberg was unable to win assurances from House Republican Leader John Boehner last week that his party wouldn't sandbag the bill.