Lifetime health benefits for sickened 9/11 first responders won overwhelming approval Friday from Congress after a long and contentious battle. The House and the Senate both voted to extend the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, giving coverage to those afflicted with Ground Zero-related health woes for the next 75 years. [...] In addition to extending the healthcare program for first responders and others suffering lingering 9/11 health issues, Congress renewed the Victims Compensation Fund for another five years to aid first responders too sick to work and their families.
We've been keeping a close eye on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, created five years ago to cover health care costs for 9/11 first responders, which has already expired. The law, which managed to overcome Republican objections in 2010, needed to be reauthorized two months ago, but GOP leaders largely ignored it. The measure was then supposed to be included in a recent transportation bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stripped the Zadroga provisions from the larger package.
Proponents didn't give up, and as of this afternoon, thanks to an enormous amount of work from first responders, their families, and their allies, the fight is over -- and they won. The New York Daily News reported:
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) proudly proclaimed, “After 15 years, the heroes and survivors of 9/11 will know that their health care is permanent and their compensation is full."
Specifically, the Zadroga measure was included in the omnibus spending bill, which passed the House this morning, and cleared the Senate soon after.
Proponents benefited from some key allies, but it's worth emphasizing that one of the highest-profile activists in this fight was Jon Stewart, who raised the visibility of the effort in ways public officials couldn't.
We'll have more on this on tonight's show, but here's a video of 9/11 first responder and Zadroga Bill proponent John Feal speaking to the press after the bill was passed.
Dec. 18, 201501:34