Obama flips, agrees to support 9/11 health bill

August 19, 2010 9:33:50 AM PDT
A bill that would provide medical benefits to 9/11 rescue workers has new life Thursday now that President Barack Obama has pledged his support.

In a surprising about-face, the White House said Obama now supports legislation to provide health care to 9/11 workers.

Obama has long been in support of offering medical care to ground zero workers, but had problems with how the current bill was funded. But he now says he will sign the Zadroga bill into law if Congress approves it.

Obama's change of heart could be due to the passionate letter he received from John Feal, a first responder who lost part of his foot due to his work at ground zero.

"I think it's great that the president says he will sign our bill," Feal said. "But is he going to actively pursue members of the House and the Senate to push the bill forward?"

The legislation would provide $7 billion in free medical care and compensation to rescue workers. But the House rejected it two weeks ago, sparking a heated response from Congressman Anthony Weiner.

"You vote yes if you believe yes," Weiner said. "You vote in favor of something if you believe it's the right thing."

Weiner thinks the president's support will help the bill pass when re-introduced in the fall.

Congressman Peter King, who has clashed with the president over the proposed mosque near ground zero, praised Obama for changing his mind on this issue.

"It's important that the president be on board, and now we have to try and get this passed, one way or the other, by the end of September," King said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he appreciates Obama's support and urged both houses of Congress to work together to pass the bill when it is goes up for a vote next month.