Congress Passes $4.2B 9/11 Health Care Bill
NEW YORK (CBS 2/WCBS 880/1010 WINS/AP) — After a last-minute compromise, Congress passed legislation Wednesday to provide up to $4.2 billion in new aid to survivors of the September 11th terrorism attack on the World Trade Center and responders who became ill working in its ruins.
WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell on the Zadroga family
WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell on the impact on medical treatments
The House passed the bill on a 206-60 vote Wednesday about two hours after the Senate cleared it on a voice vote as lawmakers raced to wrap up their work before Christmas.
The measure now heads to President Obama. Obama has said he is eager to sign the measure, though some supporters of the bill have criticized him for not getting more involved in the fight.
The measure was a product of a compromise involving Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
Speaking with WCBS 880 Wednesday afternoon, Gillibrand said “the Senate came together” and “did the right thing for our first responders” and “our American heroes.”
“Every American recognizes the heroism of the 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one group while robbing future generation of opportunity,” said Coburn, who led a GOP blockade against the bill. “This agreement strikes a fair balance.”
When Gillibrand was asked if she was happy with the final bill that involved less money and fewer years, the Senator said it was “fine.”
“Senator Schumer and I and the whole congressional delegation can just go back to the drawing board in five years and say ‘we need to put more funds into this,’” she told WCBS 880.
“Finally, we are showing the type of gratitude that these heroes have always deserved,” Sen. Bob Menendez, of New Jersey, said.
Mayor Bloomberg expressed his appreciation to a number lawmakers who worked on behalf of the bill. The mayor called the Senate’s passage an affirmation of the “nation’s commitment to protecting those who protect us all.”
“The Senate recognized that 9/11 was not just an attack on New York but an attack on America,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is named for former NYPD detective James Zadroga, whose supporters said died of respiratory disease as a result of his work at the World Trade Center Site.
The bill gained momentum with help from cable TV personalities. Among the biggest champions of the package were Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and comedian and activist Jon Stewart, who championed the bill and lashed its GOP foes on his Comedy Central TV program “The Daily Show.”
The compromise was reached after Democrats scheduled a showdown test vote for Wednesday afternoon and Republicans countered by threatening to run a 30-hour clock before allowing final Senate and House votes on the bill. That would have required keeping both the Senate and House in session for votes on Christmas Eve.
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