By Jennifer Glickel
MANHATTAN — The House of Representatives floor resounded with cheers and claps Wednesday afternoon after the 9/11 Health and Compensation Bill was finally passed, a huge step in providing more than $7 billion in medical treatment and compensation to first responders who became sick from inhaling toxins on 9/11.
The Zadroga Bill passed with a vote of 268 in favor to 160 opposed, which was heralded with cheers on the House floor when Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced its passage.
"To the living victims of 9/11, we have good news: help is on the way. Today, the House answered the emergency calls of thousands of ailing 9/11 first responders and survivors," East Side Rep. Carolyn Maloney said in a statement after the bill's passage on Wednesday.
"I say that the true Twin Towers of New York are the men and women standing here, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, laborers, all the first responders," Maloney said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The measure now has to be passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama, and Maloney said she will "not stop fighting" until that happens. Obama has said he will sign the bill if and when it makes it to his desk.
Republicans proposed a motion to send the bill back to committee just before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, but it was shot down on the floor of the House shortly thereafter. Had the motion passed, the House's vote on the Zadroga Bill could have been postponed until after the November elections.
The bill did not gain the 2/3-majority vote in the House that was required for its passage when it went to the floor in July. When the bill was passed on Wednesday afternoon, it only required a simple majority to get through the House.
"I am extremely emotional today,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, his voice breaking as he spoke about the years of work New York's congressional delegation put into the bill.
"I'm so proud of this victory and moved by the prospect of finally, after nine long years, delivering what thousands of ailing Americans have been waiting for," he added.
The bill got its name from the late James Zadroga, an NYPD detective who was a part of the rescue and recovery efforts for about three weeks after the towers fell. Zadroga died in January 2006 after developing symptoms experienced by many of the first responders, including flu-like symptoms and breathing problems.
"I was so overjoyed when the bill passed this afternoon that it literally brought tears to my eyes," Zadroga's father, Joseph Zadroga, said on Wednesday.