WASHINGTON – After a last-minute compromise, Congress passed legislation Wednesday to provide up to $4.2 billion in new aid to survivors of the September 2001 terrorism attack on the World Trade Center and responders who became ill from working in its ruins.

The House passed the bill on a 206-60 vote Wednesday about two hours after the Senate cleared it on a voice vote as lawmakers raced to wrap up their work before Christmas. President Obama has said he is eager to sign the measure.

The package provides $1.5 billion to monitor the health of rescue and cleanup workers and treat illnesses related to ground zero. It also reopens a victims compensation fund with $2.7 billion.

Maine’s representatives in the House, Democrats Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud, voted in favor of the legislation.

The bill was a product of a compromise involving Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Enzi of Wyoming. New York members of Congress had sought $2 billion more for the overall bill. They accepted the smaller amount in exchange for GOP critics dropping their opposition.

“The Christmas miracle we’ve been looking for has arrived,” Schumer and Gillibrand said in a joint statement. They had sought $6.2 billion and to keep the compensation fund open for 10 years.

“Every American recognizes the heroism of the 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one group while robbing future generations of opportunity,” said Coburn, who led a GOP blockade against the bill. “This agreement strikes a fair balance.”

In a prepared statement, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said that “I believe that we have a moral obligation to provide care for the first responders who have become ill as a result of their heroic work. … I encouraged negotiators from both parties to come to an agreement on a carefully targeted bill to accomplish this goal.

“I discussed the importance of this legislation with New York’s mayor and police commissioner,” she said, “and I have met personally with Maine firefighters who bravely responded to ground zero. I am grateful we have an agreement that will help them.”

The bill gained momentum with help from cable TV personalities. Among the biggest supporters were Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and comedian and activist Jon Stewart, who championed the bill and lashed its GOP foes on his Comedy Central TV program “The Daily Show.”

The compromise was reached after Democrats scheduled a showdown test vote for Wednesday and Republicans countered by threatening to run a 30-hour clock before allowing final Senate and House votes on the bill. That would have required keeping both bodies in session for votes on Christmas Eve.

Nearly 16,000 responders and 2,700 people living near ground zero are currently sick and receiving treatment, supporters of the bill said. More than 40,000 responders are in medical monitoring, backers said.

The bill would be paid for with a fee on some foreign firms that get U.S. government procurement contracts. The bill also calls for extending fees on certain firms that rely on H-1B and L-1 visas.

Researchers have found that people exposed to the thick clouds of pulverized building materials at the trade center site have high rates of asthma and sinus problems. Many firefighters also suffered a reduction in lung power.

Doctors aren’t sure, though, exactly how many people are ill, and scientific doubt persists about just how many of the hundreds of illnesses are actually linked to the trade center dust. Doctors still don’t know whether there is any connection between the dust and potentially fatal illnesses like cancer.

The legislation is named for James Zadroga, a police detective who died at age 34. His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero, but New York City’s medical examiner said Zadroga’s lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse.