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EDITORIAL: Reckoning for WTC first responders

Nobody relishes fighting with sick 9/11 first responders over compensation for their sacrifices. A fair, amicable settlement is the preferred outcome for taxpayers. And it's likely in the best interest of most of the 10,000 people who sued New York City and 100 contractors because they fell ill after inhaling the fog of dust around Ground Zero, where they searched for victims and cleared a mountain of debris.

The settlement now on the table would create a $750-million fund and apportion compensation based on individual circumstances. At least 95 percent of the people who sued will have to sign on by Nov. 8 for the deal to go through. Whether to accept the settlement is a decision each individual and family will have to make. But doing so could spare them years of uncertain litigation to prove that the city or contractors acted in bad faith, that they were negligent, and that it was actually the acrid dust that sickened them. That's a dispiriting series of legal hurdles.

Unfortunately, Washington hasn't decided yet whether to reopen the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for people who've sued in New York and others like them who got sick after it was closed for business in 2003 - or who may become sick in the future. The House has voted to do it, and the Senate may finally take it up in a lame duck session. Congress needs to get this done in a way that won't penalize people should they accept the New York settlement. The goal, after all, is to do the right thing for those who stepped up for us. hN