Opinion sig

Congress is expected to approve the renewal of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides health benefits for first responders who grew ill after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The act created the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides health monitoring and treatment for first responders. The program expired this fall.

While the expected renewal is good news, the provisions of the Zadroga Act must be made permanent.

The Zadroga Act, named after a New York City police officer who died from a respiratory disease attributed to working at Ground Zero, first became law in 2010 after a debate over the bill’s cost. Proponents are seeking the law’s permanent extension in part because some illnesses may not manifest until years later, after the statute of limitations for worker’s compensation or certain state laws may have run out.

House and Senate Republicans have generally been supportive of the program but have opposed its permanent extension due to concerns about its cost — approximately $7 billion — and because they say they want the chance to periodically review it.

More than 33,000 sick responders depend on the program for medical treatment, and 70,000 are being monitored. Rallies have taken place this month calling for the Zadroga Act’s permanent renewal.

“If there’s anyone we should hold sacred, it’s those who rushed to these towers on 9/11, knowing there were toxins in the air, knowing there was danger, but knowing they had a duty. They should be exalted, not regarding as political pawns in somebody’s political chess game,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said at a rally, according to the New York Daily News.

Congress has a myriad of issues to wrestle with before lawmakers adjourn for the holiday. There has certainly been enough of the partisan bickering that’s now commonplace in Washington. The House’s new speaker, Paul Ryan, called for a clean slate and his colleagues to “rise to the occasion.”

Reauthorizing the Zadroga Act on a permanent basis is one way for Congress to do that. Those who rose to the occasion on 9/11 shouldn’t be left behind.

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