Zadroga World Trade Center Responder Health Bill Finally Passes Senate

A bill that provides health and economic aid to <"">World Trade Center responders sickened by toxic dust at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks has finally passed the US Senate. Republicans had been blocking the bill in the Senate for months, but this morning, a deal was finally struck guaranteeing the passage of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The Zadroga bill finally got the bipartisan support it should have had from the start, and passed the Senate without a single vote of “No.” The new version of the Zadroga bill now heads back to the US House of Representatives, were its passage in the last hours of a lame duck session of Congress is assured.

Supporters of the bill said this morning that they had the votes necessary to a break the GOP’s filibuster of the Zadroga bill. The original bill had called for a 10-year, $7.4 billion treatment and compensation package, but according to the New York Daily News, the new scaled-back version calls for 5 years at $4.2 billion. It also reopens the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund to the responders, but caps lawyers fees to 10-percent. Ailing responders also won’t be able to double-dip on payouts from the 9/11 health settlement approved earlier this year.

According to a report in The Washington Post, of the $4.2 billion price tag, $1.5 billion would go to health benefits and $2.7 billion would go to compensation.

According to a report in The New York Observer, sources say the new bill’s lower price tag will not come out of the monitoring of 9/11 responders’ health, but instead will come from the lower attorneys’ fees and the smaller window in which the ill can make claims.

“The Christmas Miracle we’ve been looking for has arrived,” Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats and the Zadroga bill’s chief Senate sponsors, said in a statement. “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. … We thank our Republican friends for coming together to fulfill America’s moral obligation to the Heroes of 9/11.”

The passage of the Zadroga bill is especially important to the 325 responders left out of the recent World Trade Center settlement because of a deadline set by the court overseeing the settlement. The refusal of the United States District Court to enlarge the group of claimants to include those responders is being appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Attorneys for <"">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, a national law firm representing 13 such responders, are requesting an expedited decision before all the monies in the settlement are disbursed and there’s nothing left for this forgotten group of heroes.

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