WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House will be voting on a bill later today, July 12, that would cover the healthcare costs for first responders of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.
This bill came into the public eye last month after emotional testimony in front of a congressional committee from comedian Jon Stewart. Stewart referenced the fact that many members of the committee missed the testimony. That includes North Dakota's congressman Kelly Armstrong. Armstrong said he was there for the first hour, but stepped out due to a scheduling conflict.
So how do the federal representatives in North Dakota plan to vote on the bill?
"They're clearly heroes, and we should do everything we can to make sure they receive all the care and support that they need," said Sen. Kevin Cramer.
"We owe it to all of our first responders and everybody else involved to pay for it," said Rep. Kelly Armstrong.
"I've co-sponsored this legislation because we need to take care of our 9/11 first responders," said Sen. John Hoeven.
The unanimous support reflects a trend in Congress over the last month. When it was first introduced, the measure had 21 co-sponsors in the Senate and 92 in the House. As of Friday, it has 71 in the Senate and 332 in the House, making it one of the most widely supported bills of the year. Both Hoeven and Cramer joined as co-sponsors after Stewart's speech.
With the widespread approval, it's easy to forget that less than a decade ago, the government didn't even recognize the debris from the twin towers was making people sick.
The government officially recognized the link between debris exposure and cancer back in 2012. That cancer is responsible for the deaths of many first responders, including Luis Alvarez, who testified before Congress last month, and died two weeks later.
This week, the bill was renamed in his honor to the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Act".
In addition to Sen. Hoeven and Sen. Cramer, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson and Sen. Tina Smith also signed-on as co-sponsors after Stewart's testimony. All of Minnesota's other federal legislators were already signed-on beforehand as co-sponsors.