Rescue workers at the World Trade Center on Sept. 12,...

Rescue workers at the World Trade Center on Sept. 12, 2001 Credit: AP Photo

The Senate finally stepped up for 9/11 workers. On the last day of the current Congress, it approved $4.3 billion in medical care and compensation for those sickened by toxic fumes from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

Republican opposition and delays left the outcome uncertain for much too long. There was just no good reason to deny the nation's help for firefighters, police officers, construction workers and others who rose to the occasion so selflessly in that historic moment.

New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand worked feverishly to arrive at the bipartisan deal that cleared the way for what they called a "Christmas miracle." It may have been easier going if Gillibrand had brought up the bill earlier in the session. But within hours of yesterday's agreement, it passed the Senate by unanimous consent and then was swiftly approved by the House. The legislation establishes a new health benefits program and reopens the 9/11 victims' compensation fund for five years. It's unfortunate, though, that the funding was slashed to $4.2 billion - considerably less than the $7.4 billion New York's House delegation pushed through that chamber in September.

But what's important is that this helping hand from a grateful nation should make a real difference in the lives of tens of thousands of affected workers and their families. hN