Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this evening at a reception organized by the New York State AFL-CIO and the World Trade Center contractors to celebrate the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. President Obama signed the act into law earlier this month. The legislation provides health care for those exposed to toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, and reopens the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund to provide economic relief to those harmed by the attacks. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you much, Carolyn Maloney. I think that you can hear in the words that Carolyn said the relentlessness that she had about this legislation. She is a great leader. She has been a great leader on it, as has Jerry Nadler, Joe Crowley, all of the people who are gathered here. Peter Kelly, he has been wonderful--Peter King, I'm sorry. He's Irish. [Laughter.]
“Let me just put this in a little perspective for you. Richard, thank you--I knew a lot about you, but not that you were a poet. [Laughter.] Especially thank you to the AFL-CIO of New York and Harold Schaitberger and the firefighters.
“Schumer--the Senate! Weren't they wonderful? Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand. [Applause.] There are many people--New Jersey friends and Mr. Pascrell and Pallone and of course we are so honored that the Secretary of HHS is here. But I stand between the two of these people because in our House, they were totally relentless, persistent, and dissatisfied until the job was done.
“But let me just put it in a little perspective. You know how long ago this tragedy came upon on our country. When we took over the majority, H.R. 1--the first bill that we passed, Mr. Livingston-- H.R. 1 was to enact the provisions of the 9/11 commission. The 9/11 had passed, put forth these suggestions, proposals years before, but they never came before the Congress.
“It was our very first bill, honoring our very first responsibility which is to protect the American people. We knew we were walking on sacred ground anytime talking about the subject of 9/11, and we handled it with care. We didn't think it was going to take so long to pass this bill. And while the H.R. 1 was the first bill passed in the House of Representatives under Democratic majority, this health care bill, 9/11 health care bill was the last bill passed in the House of Representatives.
“And I want to salute our New York delegation because in a bipartisan way, and Peter King can attest to this, we had gone. The Senate acted--thank you, Chuck Schumer; thank you Kirsten Gillibrand; thank you Harry Reid--the Senate acted, but they didn't see each other, it can be unanimous consent, the this, the that. But we had to have our Members present and voting because there would have been an objection, right?
“And so, to be sure I was on the phone calling people, to call them back, to call them back, and you know what they said? They said, ‘We are coming back to honor the work of our New York delegation. We are coming back for them. They have talking about this for years. They have convinced us it is the right thing to do, and while we are home across the country with our families, we are taking the next flight out to be with our New York colleagues to vote on this bill.' So I thank you for that because the respect that you command in the Caucus, in the Congress really made the difference in people coming. This is highly unusual for Members to come back, taking flights--I am not talking about driving back from New York, I am talking about taking flights across the country.
“And so, again, Jerry Nadler, Peter King, the entire New York delegation, our Senators, everybody--it took everything. Bipartisan, both sides of the aisle--right, Peter? It took everything.
“And it is something that, really that day is something we will never forget--when it happened that people went in without thought of their own lives to save other lives. Because of their courage, fewer people lost their lives. But they did this at the risk of their own health. It was the very least we could do. Better late than never, but we are very, very happy it happened.
“And when I say it took everything, and I am talking mainly about the Members--House, Senate, Democrats, and Republicans. It took everything on the outside--the firefighters, the first responders, the contractors and all the rest--every day coming to Congress to talk to Members of Congress about this.
“So I came here to congratulation the New York delegation, to thank our first responders for everything they do for us every single day, but to acknowledge the extraordinary work on 9/11 and the time surrounding that. And to Carolyn Maloney and to Jerry Nadler, a special thanks to all of you.”