The heroes of the September 11 attacks can breathe a sigh of relief – the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act has passed.
The initial Zadroga bill called for a 10-year, $7.4 billion treatment and compensation package. To win Republican support, the proposal was trimmed down to 5 years at $4.3 billion.
Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand released a joint statement on Wednesday, December 22 announcing that they reached a deal with Senate Republicans to pass the bill.
“The Christmas Miracle we’ve been looking for has arrived,” the statement read. “Over the last 24 hours, our Republican colleagues have negotiated in good faith to forge a workable final package that will protect the health of the men and women who selflessly answered our nation’s call in her hour of greatest need.”
The statement continued, “This has been a long process, but we are now on the cusp of the victory these heroes deserve.”
For Congressman Joseph Crowley, who lost a cousin in the attacks, passing the bill is the country’s moral duty and a necessary, if painful, reminder of the debt this country owes to its heroes.
“Thousands of firefighters, policemen, rescue workers and medical personnel rushed to Ground Zero, without any hesitation, to search for survivors and to clean the site. These brave men and women showed us the best of America,” said Crowley. “These heroes stood for us on September 11 and the days and months following. All they have asked for in return is for Congress to stand with them by passing the James Zadroga Act.”
The Senate originally voted down the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act on December 9, and Democrats pointed fingers at Republicans for the bill’s failure.
The legislation aims to help provide health coverage to workers who were at Ground Zero following the terrorist attack and other people who are now suffering from health issues as a result of breathing in the toxic dust from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings. A version of the bill passed the House in September but was shot down 57 for, 42 against and 1 abstention in the Senate. The bill needed 60 votes to pass.
Governor David A. Paterson said that he was pleased that help will finally come for rescue workers and residents of New York who suffered illnesses from breathing fumes and smoke at Ground Zero.
“The legislation has been a moral imperative, and I am pleased that Congress agrees that this is not only a priority for New York State, but for our entire country,” said the governor. “I commend New York’s Congressional Delegation, especially our Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, for their long-standing commitment and leadership on this issue and I look forward to President Obama signing this bill into law.”
The Zadroga bill is named after a New York police detective who participated in the rescue efforts at ground zero but later developed breathing complications that were common to first responders at the site. He died in January 2006.