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1st Responders Press Senate Over 9/11 Health Bill

NEW YORK (CBS 2/ WCBS 880/1010 WINS) -- First responders who became sick after working at Ground Zero following the World Trade Center terror attacks went to Washington Tuesday, hoping the trip would be the last one they needed to make.


WCBS 880's Rich Lamb with Rudy Giuliani

Supporters were optimistic the Senate would approve a scaled-back version of the measure before the lame duck session ends, Jay Dow reported.

A newly revised version of the bill cuts costs by a billion dollars, essentially self-funds the program, and in doing so answers many of the objections raised by Republicans who stood opposed to it.

Funding for the 10-year, $6.2 billion program would be shifted from a corporate tax, to increased excise fees for foreign goods sold to the US government.

"Unlike so many pieces of legislation here in Washington, this bill is fully paid for," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

Despite that, CBS News reported that Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, would seek to block passage of the legislation.

Amid other factors, Coburn apparently feels the bill has been rushed through Congress.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also defended Republicans, saying the bill should be done, but in a "fiscally responsible" way.

Speaking with WCBS 880 Tuesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg criticized the governor's comments.

"It's fully paid for, but even to bring that up as the principle issue when we have the humanitarian issue in front of us, I think is desperate political rhetoric," Lautenberg said, "we shouldn't be listening to that."

Sen. Chuck Schumer had a simple plea that he directed at "every Senator and House member."

"Heed the call. Don't delay. Pass the bill," Schumer said.

Gillibrand also addressed the criticism from some Republicans at the news conference.

"Some have said that this bill has been rushed.  Let me assure you, we've been working on this bill for nine years.  My predecessor Secretary Hillary Clinton started working on this bill in the Senate in 2006," she said.

The proposed legislation is named for NYPD James Zadroga, whose supporters said died of respiratory disease contracted during his work at the World Trade Center site.

It would proved free health care and compensation payments to 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who fell ill working there.

Zadroga's father Joseph wasn't giving up. "I beg the Senate down in Washington, D.C. to see the light, respect the heroes and pass this bill."

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