Congress approves health bill for 9/11 workers

Congress approves health bill for 9/11 workers
December 24th, 2010  

Topic: Congress approves health bill for 9/11 workers

Congress approves health bill for 9/11 workers
Congress approves health bill for 9/11 workers

Senate Republicans succumb to pressure, agree to voice vote

Thursday, December 23, 2010

By Raymond Hernandez, The New York Times

WASHINGTON -- After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle Wednesday afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor for a vote. In recent days, Republican senators had been under fire for their opposition to the legislation.

The House quickly passed the Senate bill a few hours later, as was widely expected. The vote was 206-60, breaking down largely along party lines. The White House said President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law.
After the Senate vote, a celebration broke out in a room in the Capitol packed with emergency workers and 9/11 families, as well as New York's two Democratic senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and New Jersey's two Democratic senators, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. They were greeted with a huge ovation and repeated chants of "USA! USA.!"

Mr. Schumer allowed Ms. Gillibrand to address the group first, in apparent deference to the lead she took in the Senate on the 9/11 legislation. "Our Christmas miracle has arrived," she said to applause and cheers.
"To the firefighters here, the police officers here, everyone involved in the recovery, all the volunteers, the family members: Thank you!" she continued. "It was your work, it was your heroism, it was your dedication that made the difference. It was your effort -- coming here week after week to tell senators and Congress members about your stories and what you went through."

The votes came after prolonged aggressive lobbying by top New York officials and lawmakers, police and firefighter unions and 9/11 families, who argued that the nation had a moral obligation to provide medical assistance to rescue workers who spent days, weeks and even months at Ground Zero.

In a reminder of the bill's long road to passage, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who sponsored the legislation when she represented New York in the Senate, was coincidentally at the Capitol on Wednesday for a Senate vote on ratification of the New START treaty.
The 9/11 health measure calls for providing $1.8 billion over the next five years to monitor and treat injuries stemming from exposure to toxic dust and debris at Ground Zero from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which two hijacked jetliners rammed into the World Trade Center, demolishing the twin towers; New York City would pay 10 percent of these costs.

There are nearly 60,000 people enrolled in health monitoring and treatment programs related to the 9/11 attacks. The federal government now provides the bulk of the funding for these programs.

The legislation adopted Wednesday also sets aside $2.5 billion to reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses.

The bill was adopted during a flurry of activity Wednesday afternoon, as lawmakers rushed to adjourn for the year. It was a major turn of events since the bill appeared to have fallen victim to partisan squabbling and rancor.

In September, after years of negotiation and debate, the House passed legislation that called for $7.4 billion over eight years to cover the medical care of 9/11 rescue workers and others. But this month, Senate Republicans derailed that legislation, expressing concern about its cost.
By Wednesday, however, Senate Republicans backed down after a barrage of criticism over the past few days -- not just from Democrats but also from allies, including former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and conservative news outlets like Fox News. The 9/11 health care issue also became a pet cause of Comedy Central anchorman Jon Stewart, who used his "Daily Show" platform to bring national attention to the bill.
Before agreeing to lift their opposition, Senate Republicans managed to get Democrats to scale back the House bill's size. Instead of providing the $7.4 billion the House sought over eight years, the Senate compromise calls for $4.3 billion over five years.

The Senate adopted the legislation by a voice vote, eliminating the need for a recorded vote. One of the House bill's main critics, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., expressed satisfaction with the legislation's final cost.
Still, the acrimonious fight over the 9/11 legislation appeared to leave Republicans on the defensive, with some complaining that their party had been unfairly demonized for raising legitimate objections to the bill the House passed.

"Some have tried to portray this debate as a debate between those who support 9/11 workers and those who don't," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "This is a gross distortion of the facts. There was never any doubt about supporting the first responders. It was about doing it right."

Read more:
December 24th, 2010  
Rob Henderson
February 24th, 2011  
MC Martel
About time, if it were up to me, those heroes would get double what we're giving them. You know you're a plane plough into the side of a 100 story building and say "I'm going to head TOWARDS that" Thank goodness these people are getting what they deserve for their bravery and selflessness.
Congress approves health bill for 9/11 workers

Similar Topics
Backers of 9/11 health bill optimistic (AP)
Congress Improves GI Bill
House Bill for 9/11 First Responders' Health Care Defeated
What was said on the 3rd presidential debate.
State of the Union