President Obama said he will back a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in aid to those who fell ill due to the dust created by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The President looks forward to signing the 9/11 health bill into law, once it passes both houses of Congress, to help the first responders whose health and livelihood were devastated by the events of Sept. 11," a White House statement said.
Of course, the President can only sign the bill if it actually gets through Congress. The bill was vetoed in the House in July, when bipartisan wrangling cost it a two-thirds majority. Obama remained mum on the bill prior to that vote. Supporters are hoping his newly-issued endorsement will bring the bill back to the House Floor in September.
The legislation would provide free health care and compensation payments to the Sept. 11 rescue and recovery workers who became ill following the attacks. According to NBC news, researchers found that thousands of New Yorkers exposed to dust from the World Trade Centers are now suffering from breathing difficulties similar to asthma. Other studies have shown firefighters who worked on the disaster site are suffering from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.
Republicans voted against the bill after Democrats attempted to pass the legislation using a procedural vote that prevented them from adding amendments. According to the Associated Press, GOP critics branded the bill as yet another big-government "massive new entitlement program" that would have increased taxes and possibly kill jobs.
Democrats argued that the bill will be paid for over the next 10 years by closing a tax loophole, but by then, party lines had been drawn.