Senate supporters of H.R. 847 the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, believe they are close to attaining a vote on the legislation after offering changes to make the measure less objectionable to Republican critics. New York's two Democratic Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, issued a news release on Sunday, Dec. 19, declaring, "The Finish Line for 9/11 First Responders is in
They report, "Instead of relying on the House-passed offset that closed foreign tax loopholes, the new Senate bill would impose a 2-percent excise fee on certain foreign companies that receive U.S. government contracts. This raises roughly $4.5 billion over 10 years." In addition, a fee on H-1B and L-1 Visas set to expire in September 2014 will be extended to 2021; the Travel Promotion Act's fee on visitors to the United States would be extended from 2015 to 2021. (Never believe a sponsor who claims: "This is only a temporary fee.")
We have not seen the text but would guess the new language will continue to funnel tens of millions of dollars to U.S. trial lawyers for filing claims on behalf of first responders and others who report illness based on exposure to Ground Zero contaminants. In addition, compensation funds are created to establish a measure of legal finality and predictability to costs, and this bill undermines those principles by reopening the 9/11 compensation fund.
Opponents of the bill were hit by another wave of organized obloquy last week, highlighted by Jon Stewart devoting an entire show to the issue and Fox News' Shepard Smith railing against Republicans who blocked the bill . On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace interviewed Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) about the legislation, a rare example of getting both sides of the issue. Kyl said:
KYL: I don't know if that bill is going to come before us, but Dick tells me just a moment ago that he thinks that it will. First question is, is it amendable, or is it a take it or leave it proposition? The bill hasn't been through committee. There are problems with it.And I think the first thing Republicans will ask is do we have a chance to fix any problems that may exist with it. And it's a lot of money, and so I -- my early response is that I am skeptical about that bill.
If the Senate passes the revised legislation, it would have to go back to the House for approval of the changes, but the House may have already adjourned sine die by then.
News coverage ...
- New York Magazine, "Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn Wants to Kill the 9/11 Health-Care Bill
- CBS News, "Coburn Moves to Block 9/11 First Responders Bill as Some Republicans Urge its Passage"
- Media Matters for America (the malign blog), ""Fox host dismisses 9-11 first responders bill as 'sentimental'; not 'a big deal"
- CNN, "Bloomberg urges passage of 9/11 health bill
- ABC News, "Senate to Vote on 9/11 First Responders' Bill Soon