UPDATE 1:38pm: The 9/11First Responders bill has passed the Senate with unanimous consent.  See what conservatives got to seal the deal.

Senator Johanns’ staff unfortunately has chosen to use misleading statements and falsehoods to “question” a bill that will provide needed health care for the heroes who sifted through the rubble at the World Trade Center to save lives in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

The 9/11 Health Bill is needed because the original Victim Compensation Fund did not include most responders because they weren’t sick yet or thought they would get better – in fact, most have become sicker. There are more than 35,000 responders and survivors that have needed medical treatment for 9/11 illnesses since the fund closed in 2003, and thousands more who were heavily exposed and may become sick in the future – including 16 firefighters in Nebraska.

The accusation that existing funds are unaccounted for is unfounded and untrue.  A full accounting of all funds obligated and expended to date has been provided and the agency in charge of administering these funds has provided written testimony to the Senate HELP Committee documenting how this money has been spent, documentation which is publicly available to everyone, including Senator Johanns and his staff.  Furthermore, the bill includes additional provisions for even more oversight and more detailed accounting.

While we applaud the fact that Johanns voted for the Zadroga bill this afternoon, he didn’t do it because Nebraskans called his office or because 9/11 First Responders went on national television.  Johanns’ vote was for his party.  When Senator Coburn got the watered-down bill that he wanted, Johanns obeyed his party’s call and voted for the bill.  Nebraskans deserve better, bolder leaders who will stand up for our national heros, not dangle on the end of a party leash.