President Obama Signed 9/11 First Responders Bill into Law After it Languished 10 Years in Congress.
On Sunday, January 2, 2011, President Obama signed the 9/11 First Responders Bill into Law, 10 years after our nation’s worst tragedy---the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack in which planes flown by Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist operatives flew into the World Trade Center, killing over 3000 people. The bill to provide medical assistance to 9/11 Emergency Responders was initially sponsored by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, when she represented New York in the Senate during the Bush Administration. The final legislation came after years of prolonged aggressive lobbying by top New York officials and lawmakers, police and firefighter groups and 9/11 families, who argued that the nation had a moral obligation to provide medical assistance to rescue workers who spent days, weeks and even months at “Ground Zero.”
Even so, the bill was delayed in the Senate by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who came under criticism for opposing the bill on the grounds that it provided "overly generous funding" and included "unnecessary and duplicative compensation funds." Ultimately, Senate Republicans budged, following a barrage of criticism from Democrats, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and Fox News, and even Comedian Jon Stewart, who used the bully-pulpit of the “The Daily Show,” to bring national attention to it. Senator Coburn finally reached a compromise with New York Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) when they agreed to bring the bill’s cost down to $4.3 billion.
There are nearly 60,000 people already enrolled in health-monitoring and treatment programs related to the 9/11 attacks. The law sets aside $1.8 billion for to monitor and provide medical treatment for rescue workers over the next 5 years who were sickened by inhalation of toxic dust, fumes, smoke, or by toxic debris at “Ground Zero” in the days after the attack. Additionally it sets aside $2.5 billion to reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses. Victims have five years to file claims.