(CBS) — Republican Senator Mark Kirk is giving some bipartisan support to renew money for a bill many of his colleagues were reluctant to endorse the first time around: helping pay medical bills of those who worked at Ground Zero.

Senator Kirk is a co-sponsor of the bill to extend funding for people who worked at the World Trade Center site after 9-11.

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“I’m also acting as a very independent voice to be against many of the Republicans who stopped this bill,” Kirk said.

Kirk says many of his colleagues think it’s just too expensive.

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Art Noonan is a retired Chicago firefighter who spent five days at Ground Zero – much of that time breathing in the particles that he believes contributed to his leukemia diagnosis in late 2004.

“Let’s say you spray some Off! (mosquito repellant) on you and you inhale it. You can feel that little tingling. That’s what it was there at times. Every now and then you’d get a good whiff and you could feel that you weren’t breathing pure air,” he said.

Noonan is in remission now, but says he still doesn’t have his energy back.

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More than 170 Illinois residents who helped at Ground Zero say they have illnesses related to their work at the site.