Happy Holidays for Ground Zero Heroes

12/22/2010 03:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Ground Zero heroes won. Not exactly with a bang, but a quick voice vote and a mumbled announcement by Vice President Joe Biden that the ayes had it.

After weeks -- years -- of sound and fury, it was a welcome finale. The Senate Republicans had been shamed into giving up their opposition to a bill that would provide health care and economic support to the men and women who became ill due to their work on rescue and clean-up after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

They weren't happy about it. "We owe it to the American people to be accountable on how we spend money," grumbled Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. But it was done.

"The Christmas miracle we've been looking for has arrived," Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

"We nearly gave up last night," Schumer said. "We thought it had all fallen apart."

But this morning, GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, the man who had threatened to scuttle the bill, gave way. The gloomy obstetrician from Oklahoma and his conservative homeboys did manage to reduce the size and scope of the legislation. But in the end, the party of flag-wavers just couldn't stand the pressure of being on the wrong side of an emotional national issue like Sept 11.

Among the people who should be particularly proud of the bill's passage is Jon Stewart, who devoted his last show of 2010 to a brilliant half-hour rant against the Republican obstructionist, leading to a cascade of new national stories about the stalled bill.

And then there's Gillibrand. New Yorkers have barely gotten to know Hillary Clinton's replacement. She was appointed to the job in the clumsiest and most embarrassing manner possible, and although she won election in her own right last month, given the quality of the Republican opposition you couldn't call it a popular uprising of support.

But during the lame duck session she's really come into her own. Her work to get rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell was tireless and passionate. Her fight for the Ground Zero workers was a thing of beauty.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Senator. You deserve it.