It’s officially Senator Gillibrand’s cause now, too.
At a Friday morning press conference that felt like a torch-passing, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney very publicly cheered the legislative efforts of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced that the Senate would be holding its first-ever hearing on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health Legislation bill at the end of the month.
“This is a crucial step in the legislative process,” Gillibrand said of the hearing, which is scheduled for June 29. “We have an undeniable, moral obligation. … We are still losing heroes today.”
The move would seem to end a tumultous year for the relationship between the two women. Last June, Maloney was criticizing the senator’s character and her record, in advance of a possible primary challenge, which eventually fizzled out late in the summer. Now, a year later, Maloney is imparting some of her considerable cachet on the congresswoman’s signature issue.
“Senator Gillibrand: We are now working for you!” said John Feal from the FealGood Foundation, one of several 9/11 advocacy groups that came to cheer Gillibrand’s effort in the Senate.
After the Senator’s speech, there was some question about who should speak next—Congresswoman Maloney, or Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was also there. “It’s your bill,” said Weiner, who ceded the podium and cited Maloney’s “seniority.”
“We need to get it through the process and on the president’s desk by 9/11,” Maloney said with trademark authority. She demanded that the legislation pass before the upcoming ninth anniversary of the attacks. “Washington’s response to 9/11 has been incomplete.”
The bill—which was recently voted favorably out of the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees—would provide comprehensive health care and compensation for first responders of the Sept. 11 attacks.
After waiting patiently for his turn to speak, Weiner complimented Gillibrand, saying that none of this could have happened “were it not for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand every single day bringing this cause to every corner of the United States Senate, including when the president of the United States came and visited the Senate and was set up for a bunch of softballs.”
“Kirsten Gillibrand said, ‘No way, We’re gonna put him on the spot and make sure he understands we haven’t forgotten,’” Weiner said.
After the speeches, Gillibrand told reporters that the main obstacle is financial. “The only opposition is money,” she said.
“I would also say that some of the opposition came from the prior administration,” Maloney chimed in.
“This is an important bill not only for 9/11 workers here, but I think it’s an important precedent that we take care of the veterans of the war against terror,” said the congresswoman, who sent an email earlier this week, referencing the bill and calling for action to protect workers cleaning up the BP oil spill.
“I’d say nothing brings people more easily together than a joint commitment to a common cause. And we have a common cause,” Maloney told The Observer of her relationship with Senator Gillibrand. “It’s important to New York State. We’ve worked on a lot of issues together that are important to New York State. That’s our job.”
And, in case there was any question, the congresswoman subsequently emailed a statement saying: “Senator Gillibrand has been a true leader on this issue and together, we will pass the Zadroga Act.”