9/11 HEROES DISSED

By VINCENT MORRIS

May 23, 2002 --
EXCLUSIVE

WASHINGTON -

House Republicans yesterday yanked a bill providing death benefits to survivors of firefighter chaplain Mychal Judge and nine other Sept. 11 heroes after critics raised objections, The Post has learned.

The 10 terror victims cited in the legislation are the only public-safety officers killed in the attacks who have no immediate family.

Sources said the measure was shelved because of some lawmakers' concerns over the potential cost due to its precedent-setting nature, while others objected to the bill's recognition of the victims' "domestic partners."

Under current law, only parents, spouses or children of public-safety officers who died in the Sept. 11 attacks are eligible to receive the standard $250,000 in federal death benefits.

If the bill had passed, any beneficiaries named by the 10 victims in their wills or life insurance policies, including siblings and gay or straight domestic partners, would have been eligible to collect the federal money.

The measure was named after Judge, who was gay. The other nine Sept. 11 workers who would be affected were not identified.

The bill had been passed unanimously by the Senate and was endorsed by a variety of organized labor and public-safety groups.

It cleared the House Judiciary Committee, but just hours before it was slated for a floor vote, House Majority Leader Dick Armey pulled it.

"Armey said we had to do this so the issue could be studied," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), a sponsor of the legislation.

Armey instead asked the House to vote on a resolution praising Ground Zero workers.

Armey's staff promised to look into the issue but did not return calls seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said the department opposed the bill because of its cost.

George Burke, of the International Association of Firefighters, said it was an outrage to deny "recognition for fallen heroes."

"It's a shame that politics are injecting themselves into something that was meant to be benevolent," Burke said.

"We're very disappointed that they did not move this legislation," added Burke.

"We're very frustrated here. We're very angry," said William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.

Judge died when the debris from the Twin Towers came crashing down on him as he was administering last rites to a firefighter.

The 68-year-old Brooklyn-born Franciscan priest was affectionately known to many as "Father Mike."




http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/48630.htm