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Christmas 'Miracle' Delivered with Compromise on 9/11 Health Care Bill

Backers of Legislation Announce a Deal With Republican Opposition to Ensure Passage

Update, Dec. 22, 4 p.m.: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had this to say about the unanimous passage of the Zadroga bill earlier today: "The Senate recognized that 9/11 was not just an attack on New York but an attack on America, and that those who responded and died or succumbed to illness afterward did so in service to the Nation."

Update, Dec. 22, 1:57 p.m.: U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both D-N.Y., released the following statement as they announced a deal with Republican opponents to clear the way for final passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act:

"The Christmas Miracle we've been looking for has arrived. 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 are pleased to announce that we crafted an agreement that will allow this legislation to pass the Senate, and the House, this afternoon. We thank our Republican friends for coming together to fulfill America's moral obligation to the Heroes of 9/11."

Update, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m.: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced Friday that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had committed to bringing up another vote on a bill to provide healthcare to first responders sickened in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The legislation failed to attract enough support to end debate in a close vote mostly along party lines earlier this month.

"I urge my Republican colleagues to end the filibuster, engage in an open and respectful debate, and let each senator decide for themselves whether the heroes and victims of Sept. 11 deserve quality health treatment and appropriate compensation for their tremendous loss and sacrifice. The 9/11 heroes deserve an up or down vote," Gillibrand said.

Check back with Little Neck Patch with more updates.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., reacted to what she called Senate Republicans' effort to tie approval of healthcare assistance legislation for 9/11 workers to the contentious issue of an extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

The bill, called the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, would provide monitoring and treatment for World Trade Center responders and survivors. It came up three votes shy of the 60 needed to end debate, 57-42.

"The idea that tax cuts for millionaires would derail this legislation is simply outrageous and offensive," she said. "The men and women who rushed to the burning towers and worked for hundreds of hours on the pile did not delay and the Senate should not have delayed either, certainly not to give tax breaks for millionaires. We should not have to wait for tax deals to do what's right."

Generally, Democrats have expressed support for the bill, while Republicans have balked at the price tag.

According to a June report by the Congressional Budget Office, passge of the bill would mean adding $7.2 billion in direct federal spending over the 2011-2015 period and $10.5 billion over the 2011-2020 period.

Over 6,600 first responders from Queens are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry set up by the city Department of Health to track those requesting medical care.

On Nov. 29, area lawmakers including New York City Police Department Chief Ray Kelly unveiled an exhibition of 29 badges belonging to officers who assisted victims after the WTC terrorist attack and later died from 9/11-related illnesses.

That collection of badges included one belonging to Sergeant Claire Hanrahan of Whitestone, who died on Aug. 28, 2007  at age 44 of illnesses she contracted as a result of breathing toxic substances at the site, according to police.

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