NY Daily News - December 24, 2010by Kathleen Lucadamo and Michael Mcauliff
Jubilant lawmakers took a victory lap at Ground Zero on Thursday, hailing the dramatic passage of the 9/11 health law as significantly more than just another political win.
"This victory lap saves lives," Sen. Chuck Schumer said of the Senate's last-minute Wednesday vote to create the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The deal to pass the $4.3 billion measure was struck just three hours before it passed. The House was called back amid growing public pressure to pass the plan in its final vote of the year.
"This was the American people demanding change, demanding a response and demanding we stand by our heroes and their families," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
President Obama is expected to sign the legislation when he returns from Christmas vacation. Then the new Victim Compensation Fund czar will have 180 days to write rules on how to dole out $2.8 billion - $800million in five years, and the rest soon after.
An additional $1.5 billion will fund medical care for five to six years.
Schumer called for the program to be up and running before the six months afforded in the law.
"We want to make sure that the best health care is available and there is no cutting around the edges in any way," Schumer said, setting Memorial Day as a goal.
In the process of getting Republicans onboard, the price of the bill was shaved from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion, then the final $4.3 billion compromise. The time span also shrank from 10 years to just over five.
Mayor Bloomberg gushed about the bipartisan effort.
"Our nation has at long last done its duty," he said, comparing the passage of the bill to how Americans came together after Sept. 11, 2001.