HONOLULU, HI - (AP) - President Barack Obama said Sunday he washonored to sign a bill to provide aid to survivors of the Sept. 11attacks and first responders who became ill working in the ruins atthe World Trade Center.
"We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by thefirefighters, police officers and first responders who risked theirlives to save others," Obama said in a statement. "I believe thisis a critical step for those who continue to bear the physicalscars of those attacks."
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was namedafter a police officer who died of a respiratory disease hecontracted during the 9/11 rescue operations. The bill was one ofthe last measures Congress passed before adjourning in December.
Some Republicans tried to block the measure, saying they wereconcerned with how to pay for the bill. They dropped theiropposition after lawmakers struck a compromise to reduce the costs.
The $4.2 billion measure will be paid for with a fee on someforeign companies that get U.S. government procurement contracts.
"At long last, the President's signature has ended ournine-year struggle to address the 9/11 health crisis. The Zadrogalaw will save lives and fulfills our moral obligation to care forthose who rose to the defense of America in a time of war," saidRep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
"This is a great victory for the heroes of September 11th, thefirefighters, police officers and construction workers. Justice isfinally being served," added Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police CommissionerRaymond W. Kelly hailed the passage of the bill. "The September11, 2001 terrorist attacks were an attack on America by a foreignenemy and addressing its health impacts is a national duty,"Bloomberg said.
There was no signing ceremony for the bill; Obama signed itprivately at the rented oceanfront home in Hawaii where he'sstaying with his family.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama had 10 days to signthe bill after its passage, a window that would have closed by thetime the president returned to Washington Tuesday. Because theWhite House didn't receive the official bill until after Obamadeparted Washington Dec. 22, Burton said a staff member who washeaded to Hawaii after the president carried it here for hissignature.