In a breakthrough for 9/11 first responders, President Obama ended his silence on the Zadroga Bill on Wednesday and backed the uphill drive to get it through Congress.
"The President looks forward to signing the 9/11 health bill into law, once it passes both houses of Congress, to help the first responders whose health and livelihood were devastated by the events of Sept. 11," a White House statement said.
Elated first responders and their families said it was the first show of support from Obama since the presidential campaign and boosted chances for bringing the bill to another vote in the House next month. A previous effort failed last month.
Obama's statement came a day after he was slammed in a letter by John Feal, head of a first responder advocacy group, as reported in the Daily News.
"Why have you failed us? We thought you were our champion," wrote Feal, who took Obama to task for speaking up on the Ground Zero mosque, but staying silent on the Zadroga bill.
"It was the Daily News that got this done," Feal said Wednesday night. "We're very encouraged. I think it's great that [Obama] says he'll help, but will he actively push both houses [of Congress] to pass our bill? We'll see."
The proposed $7.4 billion measure named for the late Detective James Zadroga would provide health care and compensation for thousands suffering from a wide range of illnesses after working in the toxic Trade Center ruins.
"I'm glad to hear it," said Joseph Zadroga, the father of James Zadroga, after the White House statement. "He originally said he was going to support it before he got elected and then we never heard anything about it again.
"Now we need to get Congress to do their part and we're ready to go," Zadroga added.
Mayor Bloomberg also hailed Obama's turnaround.
"Let's honor the first responders and other survivors of 9/11 by ensuring that they get the health care they deserve," Bloomberg said.
"We hope that [Obama] will join us" in the upcoming House floor battle in September to get Zadroga passed, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, a pair of Manhattan Democrats, said in a joint statement. "We have a moral obligation to help them."
Reps. Pete King (R-L.I.) and Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens), who staged a nasty floor fight over the bill last month, have shelved their feud to get behind the effort to pass the bill.
"I thank the President and I give him credit for getting behind the 9/11 health care bill," King said. "I look forward to working with the president in a bipartisan way. The President's endorsement has to help."