The coverage of health care costs for rescue workers and volunteers affected by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks has been approved by the US House of Representatives.
The measure would cover the costs of treatment for police officers, firefighters, volunteer rescue workers and others who assisted victims or who searched through rubble after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
AdvertisementAn estimated 70,000 people were exposed to toxic fumes or substances from the collapse of the Twin Towers.
"We promised to help those who spent days, weeks and months doing hard work, our government and the American people expected them to do in the recovery effort," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote.
"And we pledged to do everything in our power to ensure that their health and well-being would be taken care of. We did not want them to be unsung heroes. We want them to be recognized heroes. Today we are here to honor that pledge. It's long overdue."
The bill, which was approved by a vote of 268 to 160 and whose cost is estimated at 7.4 billion dollars, must still be approved by the Senate and get signed by President Barack Obama before it can become law.
Some Republicans objected to the measure because it calls for new taxes on American companies that use offshore operations to reduce their tax obligations.
But Obama praised the House for passing the bill and said he would sign it if it clears the Senate.
"We will never forget the searing images of September 11, 2001. And we will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others," he said in a statement.
The president called the medical monitoring and treatment the bill ensures a "critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks."
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