ABC News' John R. Parkinson reports:
The House this afternoon passed final congressional approval of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which provides medical care for persons exposed to harmful toxins from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. First responders, cleanup workers and those living within the terrorist attack areas are eligible for care.
The $7.4 billion bill passed easily 268 to 160. Seventeen Republicans supported the measure, while three Democrats voted against the bill.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke out on the House floor in favor of the bill, saying it will help those who jeopardize their health to rescue others, secure necessary medical treatment especially for the unique exposures suffered at Ground Zero, and ensures survivors and victims’ families can attain compensation for their losses.
“They and those who rushed to the scene in real time when it happened risked their lives and their health to do so. They didn’t ask any questions. Is anybody going to take care of me? They were there to help,” Pelosi said. “Today we remember all the heroes of 9/11, we praised the strength of thousands of firefighters, rescue workers, first responders and medical personnel who turned tragedy into inspiration, and gave themselves, of themselves, to help a city and our nation rebuild.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the House for passing the bill, but urged the Senate to pass the bill during the lame duck session of Congress after the congressional midterm elections.
"Today’s vote acknowledges that the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks were an attack on America, and addressing its health impacts is a national duty. This bill recognizes that the country should be there for the tens of thousands of responders who were there for us on 9/11," Bloomberg said. "It is imperative that we secure a commitment to bring this bill up in the Senate before the current Congress goes out of session and I will be working very hard with our Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to ensure that happens. The President has said he will sign this bill when it reaches his desk. It’s not enough to pass a bill in the House – we need to make this legislation law.”
Pelosi said the legislation, which was introduced by New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney, is fully paid for and does not increase the deficit.
“We pledge to do everything in our power to ensure that their health and wellbeing would be taken care of. We don’t want them to be unsung heroes. We want them to be recognized heroes,” Pelosi said. “Today we are here to honor that pledge. It’s long overdue.”
An attempt last July to get the bill through the House failed because it was brought to the floor under an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, which it failed to get.
The House bill is named for James Zadroga, who was a New York City Police Department officer who died of a respiratory disease linked to his participation in rescue and recovery operations in the rubble of the World Trade Center. 9/11 rescue workers and first responders including members of the New York Police Department and New York Fire Department firefighters came to the Capitol today to witness the vote.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said she's working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate during the lame duck session.
“This should not be a partisan issue. We have an undeniable, moral obligation to pass this legislation and provide care to the thousands of heroes and survivors who are suffering, dying, and waiting for us to deliver the care they need," Gillibrand said. "It’s time to seize every opportunity, pass this legislation, and keep our promise to the heroes of this country who came to our rescue on 9/11.”