Obama Signs 9/11 Health Bill: ‘We Will Never Forget’

January 3, 2011

(ChattahBox Political News)–The 9/11 first responders sick and dying from breathing in the toxic dust and fumes at Ground Zero, can now rest easy in the knowledge that their special health care needs will be paid for. While still vacationing in Hawaii on Sunday, President Obama officially signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law, ending a divisive and contentious battle with Republican lawmakers determined to block the bill. Obama said that he was “honored” to sign the bill that would help our 9/11 heroes recover from the “physical scars” developed in the course of their bravery and sacrifice.

The Zadroga 9/11 Health was all but dead once it reached the Senate in the waning days of the lame-duck session. The entire Republican Caucus filibustered the bill and later, Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) refused to allow the measure to come to the floor for an up-or-down vote, citing the “overly generous funding” and other assorted disgraceful and bogus concerns. But what was really going on was the behind the scenes lobbying of the US Chamber of Commerce, objecting to the closing of a corporate tax loophole to pay for the bill.

After intense public pressure, notably from Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, Republicans began to realize their battle against 9/11 heroes was politically damaging. And Coburn along with a number of other GOP senators agreed to a compromise deal with Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Chuck Schumer (NY) that whittled down the amount and duration of the bill and came up with a different funding source.

The Republican Senators, whom for years, co-opted 9/11 for their political benefit were essentially publicly shamed into behaving like human beings.

Read the President’s full statement:

“I was honored to sign the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to ensure that rescue and recovery workers, residents, students, and others suffering from health consequences related to the World Trade Center disaster have access to the medical monitoring and treatment they need. We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers, and first responders who risked their lives to save others. I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks.”

After the 9/11 health bill was passed in the Senate just days before Christmas, Sen. Gillibrand called its passage a “Christmas miracle.” In this toxic political climate with a dysfunctional Senate perhaps she was right, but in reality a bill that paid for the health needs of our 9/11 heroes should have been non-controversial.

President Obama, said “We will never forget,” but many Republican lawmakers already have.

Photo Source: White House Photo by Pete Souza.


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