Team Obama to double budget for treating 9/11 responders in an amazing same-day U-turn
By Michael Mcauliff
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
January 28, 2010
WASHINGTON – The White House revealed Thursday night it boosted funding for ailing 9/11 responders – pumping more money into the treatment program than ever before.
Team Obama disclosed the cash only after outraging New York lawmakers with the news that the administration won’t back a permanent plan to help the dying Ground Zero responders.
The White House confirmed it will more than double the budget for treating ill responders to $150 million in 2011.
The abrupt revelation came after the Daily News reported New York lawmakers were shocked Wednesday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration does not support mandatory funding for the $11 billion permanent treatment plan.
“I was stunned – and very disappointed,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
“To say the least, I was flabbergasted,” said Staten Island Rep. Mike McMahon.
Family members also were infuriated by the lack of permanent support. “I thought that these people would be taken care of. I would have expected better from this administration,” said Lorie Van Auken.
The delegation hopes President Obama will reconsider and put victims of the terror strike on a footing close to wounded soldiers, perhaps even funding the 9/11 health bill with the military.
“We are focused on strengthening the World Trade Center health program and providing needed resources through the budget,” White House spokeswoman Moira Mack said.
New York legislators were thrilled to learn of the one-year funding boost.
“I am so pleased the administration heard the concerns of my colleagues and I,” said McMahon, praising the belated payout during a tough budget.
Lawmakers still believe a permanent fix needs to be made so responders don’t have to take hat in hand for every new budget and political cycle.
Sebelius “made it clear that the administration does not support any kind of funding mechanism that’s built into the bill,” said Bronx Rep. Eliot Engel. “They find money for everything else, they need to find money for this.”