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The health care program for 9/11 first responders expired at midnight Wednesday, but supporters expect to make it permanent long before it runs out of money sometime next year.
Congress recessed without reauthorizing the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which covers medical care for those who became sick after working at the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart has made the program — named for a New York cop who died of a respiratory disease after he worked for almost a full month at Ground Zero — a public cause, personally lobbying lawmakers to act before its Oct. 1 "sunset" date.
"We never intended for this important legislation to expire so quickly, but, once again, Washington politics got in the way," Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King of New York wrote in an op-ed Wednesday in the political newspaper The Hill.
"Congress cannot fail these men and women," they wrote. "Without action, our 9/11 heroes will receive notices in the spring that our country has failed to stand by them."
The act is fully funded well into 2016, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters earlier this month that "we do plan to extend the program."
But Maloney and Nadler, who are Democrats, and King, a Republican, wrote that failure to meet the formal deadline could send a signal that "'never forget 9/11' is just a slogan on a bumper sticker."
"Fourteen years ago, we gathered on the steps of the Capitol and vowed to never forget," they wrote. "We must not walk away."