Zadroga 9/11 health bill becomes law

ZADROGA 9/11 HEALTH BILL BECOMES LAW…. One of the final successes of the lame-duck session was also one of the session’s most pleasant surprises: the Zadroga 9/11 health bill, which had been defeated a few weeks earlier by a Republican filibuster, was approved by both chambers. It came at a high price — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) slashed its price tag considerably — but the measure is still poised to do a lot of good for people who deserve the help.

Late yesterday, the bill became law.

President Obama took time out of his Hawaiian vacation on Sunday to sign into law one of the surprise accomplishments of the lame-duck Congress: a measure covering the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others sickened by toxic fumes and dust after the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

To become law, the bill required Mr. Obama’s signature before he returned to Washington on Tuesday, so he signed it at his rented vacation home in the town of Kailua, near Honolulu. There was no signing ceremony, as there would probably have been had the president been at the White House. Instead, Mr. Obama’s official photographer recorded the moment, and the White House said it would release a picture.

In case you’re wondering why there was no signing ceremony — the “low-key nature of the signing puzzled many in the New York 9/11 community” — there’s a good reason for it. The official printed legislation that receives the president’s signature was not yet ready when Obama left for his family vacation on Dec. 23.

Legally, the president was required to sign it by tomorrow at midnight, which is when the 111th Congress officially ends. So, a White House staffer who was en route to Hawaii anyway brought the bill and Obama put his signature on it.

It was not, in other words, some kind of slight or insult to those who’ll benefit.

As for the next step, a special master to administer the law needs to be selected, and the compensation and health care benefits will kick in on July 1. Of the $4.3 billion allotted in the law, $1.5 billion will go towards medical treatment, while $2.8 billion will go towards compensation for those affected.