By Olivia Scheck and Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg left New York City for Washington D.C. — for one day at least — to urge lawmakers to support legislation helping 9/11 responders.
New York's billionaire mayor sped off to Washington Wednesday for meetings with several Congressional leaders. He planned to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and the moderate Republican Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, according to his office.
Before leaving, Bloomberg told reporters in New York he would urge leaders on both sides of the aisle to support legislation to provide health care and financial assistance to 9/11 rescue workers.
"It’s time that the country stood up to do the right thing," he said. "There are people who rushed into what started as a rescue and wound up to be a recovery mission. They put their lives on the line. They are suffering greatly," he said.
"Supposing there's another disaster. You don’t want people sitting back and saying, 'I'm afraid to go in and save somebody's life, because when it comes to my life, the public's not going to be behind me,'" he continued. "That will be my message to both the parties."
The Zadroga Act, which would have guaranteed the long-term operation of health care programs set up years ago for first responders and residents who were hurt or became ill in the aftermath of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, was voted down by the house in July.
It is expected to be considered again next week, the AP reported.
Bloomberg, a life-long Democrat who ran on the Republican ticket for mayor in 2001 before leaving the party in 2007, has denied rumors that he will join President Barack Obama's administration or run for president in 2012 as an Independent. Earlier this month, the mayor insisted that only "death" or "total incapacitation" could prevent him from finishing out his current term.
But Wednesday's trip to D.C. may fuel speculation about his supposed aspirations for national office.
The mayor also attended a September 11th Remembrance Ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where he addressed the audience.
“We will not forget our obligation to work with the rest of the country to take care of those who came to our aid — first as a rescue mission, and much too rapidly turning into a recovery mission," he said.
Bloomberg will also address the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute at a private reception preceding their 33rd Annual Awards Gala, his office said. Pelosi and Senate Majority Harry Reid are also scheduled to attend the gala.