The House of Representatives has acted with bipartisan compassion in allowing all sick first responders whose bodies were damaged by their selfless service at the World Trade Center to get promised aid from the federally funded World Trade Center Health Program.

The health program, providing monitoring and treatment, was limited in 2015 to enrolling an additional 25,000 responders on top of the nearly 50,000 who had previously been covered. That 25,000 quota is rapidly filling up. Absent congressional action, some ailing responders would go without.

The continuing resolution passed by the House to finance government operations when the Oct. 1 fiscal year starts bumps up the number of spots for World Trade Center responders to 75,000. That will let in every cop and firefighter and construction worker who might need help, rather than slamming the door arbitrarily on the 25,001st. The measure also increases to 75,000 the cap for nonresponders who got sick from the poisonous cloud that engulfed ground zero and downtown.

Now the Senate must include the provision in its budget resolution.

This amendment to the program’s size is necessary only because earlier hard-won legislation extending the health program for 9/11 heroes was a compromise. But cancer and other deadly ailments didn’t agree to the deal. They don’t compromise. The relentless and unforgiving progress of diseases cannot be written away through legislation.

We can, however, help pay the bills of those who get sick because of noble service rendered in the wake of an act of war. We can, and we must.

 


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