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NYC first responder badges arrive in Washington

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Exhibition comes as Senate takes up health bill
  • The bill gives 9/11 emergency workers medical benefits and compensation
  • Republicans say the $7.4 billion cost is too high

Washington (CNN) -- Police badges belonging to 29 members of the New York Police Department who assisted in rescue efforts at ground zero and later died from September 11-related illnesses arrived in the nation's Capitol on Monday for a weeklong exhibition.

The special exhibition is taking place as the Senate prepares to take up the September 11 health bill.

The bill, which provides medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who were first on the scene of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, won approval from the U.S. House in late September.

The measure passed on a mostly partisan 268-160 vote.

At the time, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, called the passage a "long-overdue victory."

"To the living heroes and heroines of 9/11, we have very good news," she said. "Help is on the way."

Republicans had complained that the $7.4 billion price tag was too high, while Democrats said the government had an obligation to help the first responders to the deadliest terrorism attack in U.S. history. But New York Republican Rep. Peter King was a strong backer of the measure and stood by Maloney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they celebrated the win.

"What we did was what we had to do," King said, addressing the dozens of first responders who joined the representatives around the podium in September. "What you did was what you volunteered to do."

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill -- named after a deceased New York Police Department detective -- seeks to provide free medical coverage for responders and survivors who were exposed to toxins after the attacks.

A coroner linked Zadroga's death in January 2006 to respiratory failure caused by his work in the toxic plume at ground zero. Zadroga was 34.