Congress is expected to approve legislation on Wednesday that will extend lifetime medical care for those who spent months working at Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The legislation is included in the must-pass $1 trillion spending package making what is essentially a permanent extension to the health care program for first responders. Congress and the White House reached an agreement late Tuesday, according to House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Despite being told by the Environmental Protection Agency back in 2001 that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breathe, many first responders developed cancers and other debilitating illnesses related to their recovery work. It has been determined that many, including Zadroga himself, died because of their exposure to the Ground Zero toxins. Nevertheless, Congress has been slow to act on ensuring the responders permanent health care. Even with overwhelming bipartisan support for the legislation, some House and Senate Republicans viewed the program as an unfunded entitlement program and sought to limit its size and duration. Former late night comedian Jon Stewart spent 2010 guilt-tripping Congress into originally appropriating the funds back in 2010 and has been a passionate advocate for the first responders ever since.
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