Results matching “Zadroga”

We're still waiting for this story to be reported by all those publications that campaigned so vigorously last year for passage of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. From The Economic Times of India, "Govt to move WTO if Visa talks with US fail next month":

NEW DELHI: With the recent visit of US commerce secretary Gary Locke failing to address India's concern on professional visa fee increase and imposition of additional duties on government imports, the country will try for one last time to settle the issue bilaterally next month.

Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar will meet US undersecretary of commerce Francisco Sanchez in March to settle the issue, failing which India would approach the World Trade Organsation, or WTO, a senior official has said.

"We have already successfully demonstrated to the EU that we don't hesitate going to the WTO if we are wronged. It will not be any different with the US," a commerce department official told ET.

At issue is the final funding mechanism for the $4.2 billion Zadroga 9/11 bill: a 2 percent excise fee on foreign manufacturers/companies located in countries where the U.S. does not have an international procurement agreement, and an extension of fees until 2015 on H-1B and L-1 visas.

Both provisions hit India's software and other high-tech companies especially hard.

Only one media outlet we find has reported at any length on the U.S. reaction to India's unhappiness with the legislation, which reopens and expand the 9/11 compensation fund. That's the India-based CNBC-18, which interviewed Commerce Secretary Locke on the issue during Locke's visit to India earlier this month. The resulting story, "US visa fee hike temporary; not aimed at India: Gary Locke," is confusing, as if the Secretary and reporter were talking past one another.

If only there had been Congressional hearings and scrutiny of the substance of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, to go along with the campaign of media and political threats that produced its passage.

  • The Queens Courier, "Zadroga bill covers undocumented Ground Zero workers": "After months of fighting to be protected under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, undocumented Latino Ground Zero workers from Queens finally got what they wanted. For the several Latino clean-up workers who were left out of the $713 million settlement following a lawsuit against the city over exposure to World Trade Center dust, the legislation recently signed into law by President Barack Obama would allow them to qualify for health benefits and compensation payments."

  • DNAInfo (NYC News), "Gillibrand's Staff Confuses Downtown Residents Over 9/11 Fund Eligibility: "LOWER MANHATTAN -- Staff from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's office disseminated misinformation about the new 9/11 health law to a group of angry downtown residents at a meeting Monday night. Gillibrand's staff told Community Board 1 that downtown residents who got sick after 9/11 are not eligible for the new $2.5 billion Victim Compensation Fund. But in fact, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act does not exclude anyone, and residents, students and office workers, along with rescue and recovery workers, are all welcome to apply for the fund, Rep. Jerrold Nadler's office said Tuesday morning."

  • DNAInfo (NYC News), "9/11 Healthcare Advocate Recommends 5 Reliable Lawyers": "LOWER MANHATTAN -- John Feal, a leading advocate for first responders sickened at Ground Zero who helped push the federal 9/11 healthcare bill into law, has released a list of five lawyers he trusts to help those eligible collect the federal payouts. Feal previously warned responders not to sign any agreements with lawyers who had already started circling even before President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act earlier this month. But over the weekend, Feal and his staff at the FealGood Foundation released the names of those firms they feel are reliable, well-established, and prepared to fight for thousands of rescue and recovery workers to receive a share of the newly-created $2.8 billion Victim Compensation Fund."

  • Politico, "Schumer: TARP czar for 9/11 fund": "Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday to appoint Kenneth Feinberg to administer the fund created by a recent law that provides health care and other benefits for some 9/11 first responders. Feinberg -- the former 'pay czar' for the Troubled Assets Relief Fund -- volunteered in a letter to Schumer to oversee the fund, which designates $4.3 billion to assist responders who became sick after in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Feinberg offered to do the job pro bono."

  • Confederation of Indian Industry, Jan. 5, news release, "Unfortunate to see US continue down protectionist path: CII," protesting the funding mechanism for the bill: "While CII understands and appreciates the need to compensate victims of terrorist attacks in the US, the new-found and easy practice of unfairly targeting foreign companies to pay for domestic imperatives is unjustified. Several critics have pointed to the absurdity of the provisions, which would be akin to India requiring US companies to pay for healthcare compensation of victims of the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry has also termed it a 'retrograde step' in US-India economic relations."

President Obama sat down amid tropical greenery in Hawaii today to sign H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, into law. News reports on the signing were perfunctory, as in The New York Daily News' article, "Obama signs 9/11 health care bill into law."

The Calcutta Telegraph reports an angle that we did not see raised in all the news, the possibility that the new funding mechanism violates the WTO agreements to which the United States is party. From "US 9/11 treatment tax upsets India":

New Delhi, Jan. 2: New Delhi may take Washington to the World Trade Organisation's dispute panel over its move to fund a free-treatment scheme for 9/11 victims through legislation that will cost Indian IT companies millions of dollars, officials said.

Washington plans to raise the money in two ways. One, by imposing a two per cent levy on goods and services it imports from certain developing countries that include India. Two, by extending a fee hike for certain categories of the H1B and L1 visas that are extensively used by Indian professionals working in America....

"We plan to seek consultation with Washington at the WTO (an international body dealing with the rules of trade between nations) to discuss the legislation," an Indian commerce ministry official said. "We would not hesitate to take the matter to the dispute settlement panel of the trade body if the issue does not get resolved."

These new taxes and fees were added by the U.S. Senate in the final week of the 111th Congress, replacing the House's plan to increase taxes on foreign multinational corporations incorporated in countries with which the United States does not have a tax agreement.

Yet the tax-writing committees of Congress, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means, never held hearings on the legislation. Well, at least The Daily News examined these important issues in its voluminous coverage of the 9/11 bill. What? It didn't? Well, then, Jon Stewart surely did. (And to be fair, we missed this angle, as well.)

More ....

Trolling for 9/11 compensation act cash - PointOfLaw Forum

From The New York Daily News, "9/11 litigators grabbed 'Zadroga' website name in bid to lure compensation cases":

WASHINGTON - The law firm that pocketed more than $100 million suing the city over Sept. 11 is trying to cash in on the just-passed Zadroga 9/11 health bill.

The hunt was on even before the House put its final stamp of approval on the $4.3 billion James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act last Wednesday - and long before President Obama signs it next week.

Ads began popping up touting Zadroga-Act.com with the tease: "WTC Compensation Fund: Free Consultation. Call Us Today." Clicking on that link, though, doesn't take you to a do-gooder advice site. It leads to the website of Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, the lawyers who represented most of the 10,000 9/11 plaintiffs and grabbed the bulk of the $150 million in contingency fees - about 25% - from the $625 million settlement.

The trial lawyer hunt was on, yet the newspaper never reported it.

The New York Daily News ran an old-fashioned tabloid campaign in support of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, cheering on the legislation and blasting opponents in editorials and news columns alike. The self-interest of trial lawyers in the legislation was rarely if ever mentioned. If this story had run before final passage of the bill, the legislation might have looked significantly different -- perhaps the 10 percent cap on lawyer fees would have been reduced to 8 or 5 percent.

(Hat tip: Rob Port, Sayanythingblog.

 

Trial lawyer fees and the 9/11 compensation bill - PointOfLaw Forum

A major fix to the original H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, was the placing of a hard, 10 percent cap on fees that trial lawyers can charge clients drawing on the compensation fund.

We submit that Ted Frank deserves a measure of credit for these new and very welcome provisions. On March 31, 2009, Ted testified before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the legislation, raising the issue of excessive compensation for the trial lawyers.

From his testimony:

The original VCF [Victim's Compensation Fund] was established before trial lawyers had a large inventory of clients, and made clear that the process was designed to generously compensate September 11 victims in a nonadversarial fashion, often with the assistance of Fund officials in maximizing recovery. As a result, the vast majority of claimants were able to receive free legal assistance pro bono; axpayer money allocated to compensation went to victims, rather than to trial lawyers. (On the rare occasion when it became known that an attorney charged a contingent fee, publicity was harsh.)

In contrast, many of the intended beneficiaries of H.R. 847 are already engaged in litigation, with contingent-fee agreements with attorneys likely providing as much as 40% to 50% of recovery. This bill keeps the VCF's original structure of providing resolution within 120 days. If the VCF is to be continued as a non-adversarial program without need to prove causation, then it would be unconscionable to victims and to taxpayers to permit attorneys to charge substantial contingent fees for the ministerial task of submitting claim forms. Even if the VCF is restructured to permit
appropriate independent scrutiny of claims, the streamlined administrative procedure combined with legal ethical requirements suggest that contingent fees may need to be limited by Congress where representation contracts were designed in contemplation of a lengthy litigation process. Fees should be limited to a reasonable hourly fee for necessary work; there should be provisions to maximize victim recovery and ensure that money is paid to victims, rather than attorneys. Otherwise, billions of dollars would be diverted to trial lawyers at taxpayer expense.

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The House of Representatives stayed in session long enough Wednesday to approve the Senate-amended version of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, by "a vote of 206-60, with 168 members not voting. At National Review Online's The Corner, Duncan Currie pays tribute to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), whose persistence and refusal to be cowed produced a bill that reins in the worst excesses of the original legislation. From "Tom Coburn's Achievement":

The idea of boosting medical and financial aid to heroic Ground Zero workers was never controversial. But the proposed legislation needed serious fixes. Indeed, various aspects of the 9/11 bill -- the cost, the duration, the lack of adequate oversight mechanisms, the loopholes for trial lawyers -- were deeply problematic. Unfortunately, Republicans who suggested as much were pilloried for their "callousness" and "cowardice."

Well, guess what? On Wednesday afternoon a compromise version of the 9/11 bill passed by unanimous consent. Had Coburn simply folded? Quite the opposite. He had succeeded in obtaining major revisions that greatly improved the final product.

Originally, the ten-year cost of the legislation would have been either $7.4 billion (House-passed version) or $6.2 billion (amended Senate version). The ten-year cost of the compromise will be only $4.2 billion. Originally, the bill would have cost billions more beyond the ten-year window. Those added costs were jettisoned entirely from the compromise. Originally, the re-opened 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) -- which closed in 2003 -- would have stayed in operation through 2031. Now the VCF will be shuttered -- permanently -- in 2016. Originally, legislative loopholes would have permitted certain attorneys to gobble up a massive chunk of 9/11-related settlements. The compromise imposes a rigid ceiling on trial-lawyer fees, limiting them to 10 percent of the total amount awarded and giving the VCF "special master" authority to slash fees that he considers disproportionate. Originally, the bill suffered from a dearth of accountability controls. The compromise includes muscular safeguards against waste and abuse.

Sen. Coburn issued a news release detailing the agreement. (UPDATE, Dec. 26 -- Before the compromise, Sen. Coburn's office released a seven-page critique of the legislation.)

As we commented below, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), also demanded fixes to the legislation, which made him the target of organized attacks. (Casper Star Tribune, "Media continues to target Enzi on 9/11 bill.")

The text of the final bill is here.

"Final" in this case is subject to revision. According to The New York Observer's report on a news conference, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants another shot at the legislation.

[She] said that once the program was in place, backers could go back to the Senate and try to get it extended.

"We can go back to the drawing board in four years and fight for the next five years, but it was far more important to set up the program and deliver the care now," she said. "Once the program is created we can prove how effective and efficient it is at delivering the care, and so that will give us the momentum and the argument to push for further funding later. Ultimately we want to cover these people forever."

UPDATE (11:20 a.m. Sunday): In an interview on NPR's Sunday Edition, "Sept. 11 Responder Bill A Good Start," 9/11 responder and bill supporter, Glen Klein affirmed plans to extend the bill after five years.

More ...

 

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On a voice vote, the Senate this afternoon passed a modified H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, after a compromise that reduced the costs of the legislation and capped attorneys' fees. The House is expected now to pass the bill and then adjourn.

The New York Daily News, which mounted an old-style newspaper campaign for the legislation, reported in "Senators approve James Zadroga 9/11 health bill after months of partisan bickering", that the bill had been reduced by $2 billion to $4.3 billion after negotiations among its chief Senate sponsors, New York Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Republican critics, Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Excerpt:

Besides cutting the price from $6.2 billion, the new bill covers up to six years, instead of 10.

And rather than create a $3.2 billion health fund, it will be $1.5 billion.

The compensation portion is $2.8 billion, some of which will be paid out relatively soon, with the final payment in six years.

Other concessions negotiators had to make to Coburn and Enzi included capping all lawyers' fees at 10%, with no exceptions, and even stronger reporting requirements and Government Accountability Office reviews than were already in the bill.

Although people who took money from the recent 9/11 lawsuit were already accounted for in the Zadroga bill, Republicans insisted on stronger language ensuring they could not double-dip.

Their legal settlements will be subtracted from any Zadroga bill payments.

Those are major concessions from the supporters, many who've spent recent weeks excoriating anyone who criticized the legislation. It would be gracious for them to say to Sen. Enzi and others, "Yes. You had a point about giving the bill a deliberate review. Thank you."

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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
Sight

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 ...

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Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) has been excoriated by New York City-area members of Congress for preventing passage of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Today's New York Daily News -- which has been campaigning for the bill in its news and editorial pages -- gives Enzi space to defend his arguments in a column, "Why I'm against the Zadroga 9/11 health bill: Sen. Mike Enzi explains his concerns with legislation. Excerpt:

There are serious concerns about the existing programs to help 9/11 first responders, and it is not clear that this bill fixes current problems.

Congress has funded numerous programs to provide care and compensation to 9/11 victims, spending several billion dollars on extraordinary and unprecedented efforts. Congress will continue to support these individuals. However, current program administrators have failed to account for much of the previously allocated money.

Before we create a new program, we need the basic facts about what worked and what did not work over the past nine years.

For example, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has sent $475 million in grants to NY-area health care providers but "have failed to tell Congress where that money has gone," Enzi argues. He also raises procedural objections, noting the Senate committees of jurisdiction have not voted on the legislation.

In response, the Daily News editorialists just ratchet up the invective: "It's hard to say which of the ideas expressed on the opposite page by Republican Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi are the most offensive and the most deceitful."

Senate stops 9/11 compensation fund expansion - PointOfLaw Forum

By a vote of 57-42, the Senate has just failed to invoke cloture on H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) both made floor statements earlier in the morning, arguing that a vote against the bill's considerations was a vote against American heroes.

Thwarted House members from the NYC-area are now pushing to have the provisions added to whatever measure carries the White House-Republican tax compromise. (See also New York Daily News blog, "Reps. Back Plan to Add 9/11 Bill to Tax Deal.")

Earlier posts.

UPDATE (1:20 p.m.): Here's the roll-call vote. Senate Majority Leader Reid changed his vote to no, a parliamentary maneuver that will allow him to move for the bill's reconsideration.

UPDATE (1:33 p.m.): Mayor Mike Bloomberg tweets: "Today's failed vote on the 9/11 Health & Compensation Act is a tragic example of partisan politics trumping patriotism http://bit.ly/hVDyKt." Alternatively, it might be a principled vote against a "9/11 bonanza for trial lawyers." As National Review's editors concluded:

[We] would favor a sensible bill narrowly tailored to assist the Ground Zero responders who developed an injury or illness while courageously risking their lives. But the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is deeply flawed, and Senate Republicans should hold out for something better.

A respectful debate - PointOfLaw Forum

Debate is expected to begin Wednesday in the Senate on H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture motion on Monday. Senate Republicans had also vowed no action on legislation until the pressing tax issues were settled, and the Obama-GOP agreement appears to accomplish that prerequisite.

The debate will no doubt provide more edification along these lines:

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), statement, Dec. 5: "Let's put politics aside, engage in a thorough and respectful debate, and then let each senator decide for themselves."
  • Matt Canter, Gillibrand spokesman, quoted in New York Post, Dec. 7: "Right now, Republicans are holding health care for 9/11 workers hostage to deliver Bush giveaways to millionaires and billionaires."

An informed and respectful debate would consider issues raised in this New York Post column, "9/11 junk science," by Jeff Stier*, associate director of the American Council on Science and Health, who reported: "[There] is no credible evidence in the medical literature that exposure to Ground Zero dust can cause any chronic disease or condition. That is, the central claim in the suits has no real scientific basis." (See also Stier's follow-up column.)

News coverage ...

9/11 compensation bill nearing a vote - PointOfLaw Forum

Editors of The National Review Online have written a concise summary of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, and all that is wrong with the legislation. From NRO's editorial today, "A 9/11 Bonanza for Trial Lawyers":

The Senate will soon vote on legislation that would establish a new government-run health-care program with insufficient oversight controls, create a bonanza for trial lawyers, cost a minimum of $11.6 billion, and be funded primarily through a significant tax hike on U.S.-based companies.

Of course, that's not how the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is being sold.

Supporters of the bill have countered the substantive policy objections with the the powerful political formula of emotion and patriotism. Last week, for example, they unveiled an exhibit in Washington of 29 replica police badges from officers who died after clean-up work at or near Ground Zero.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says Majority Leader Reid intends to file cloture on the bill with debate to start Wednesday. In a statement, she said: "Let's put politics aside, engage in a thorough and respectful debate, and then let each senator decide for themselves whether the heroes and victims of September 11th deserve quality health treatment and appropriate compensation for their tremendous loss and sacrifice."

Quite the rhetorical trick, there: Let's put politics aside, and if you vote against the bill, you're voting against heroes and victims who made a tremendous sacrifice.

So will critics be allowed to observe that Officer Zadroga's death was NOT the result of exposure to 9/11 debris, or is that not respectful?*

* The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2008, "New Doubts That Dust Killed a 9/11 Rescuer," which also reports:

Mr. Barasch, the lawyer, said the Zadrogas had no plans to file a lawsuit against the city. They merely wanted recognition that Detective Zadroga was a victim of 9/11, he said, and were satisfied when the mayor and the police commissioner added his name to the Wall of Heroes at 1 Police Plaza, recognizing him as a victim of the trade center attacks. ''The Zadrogas want nothing more except to allow their son to now rest in peace,'' Mr. Barasch said.


Mayor Bloomberg and the 9/11 compensation bill - PointOfLaw Forum

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg came through Washington on Tuesday to lobby for Senate passage of H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a $7.1 billion bill that would re-open the 9/11 compensation fund for new payments, especially for claims based on health problems resulting from debris removal.

The Washington Post took note of the mayor's trip with a large Style Section piece on his political ambitions, "N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg: He says he won't run for president, but keep asking." 

As for the legislation, supporters are pinning their hopes on another New York pol. The New York Daily News reports, "Unions and sick 9/11 responders agree only Sen. Chuck Schumer can seal deal to pass Zadroga Bill."

Interestingly, there was a drive-time radio ad this morning on WMAL here in Washington, a spot voiced by a man with a heavy NYC accent pleading for aid for firefighters and policeman. Assume it was a union-paid spot; we didn't hear any disclaimer. (Here's a list of groups that lobbied for the bill, which passed the House in September.)

As Ted -- who has testified on the bill -- has pointed out, the legislation will produce "what will be inevitable multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayers." Trial lawyers filing claims will do well, however.

In the House, a new chairman of the Judiciary Committee - PointOfLaw Forum

With Republicans soon to take control of the U.S. House, chairman of the Judiciary Committee will be Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a conservative who has served as ranking member. News coverage has played up his interest in enforcement of the immigration laws, but he is also a vocal supporter of medical liability reform. (See these November 2009 remarks from The Congressional Record.)

We were also impressed by his handling of the House opposition during the floor debate on H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a trial lawyer giveaway.

The trade publication/website Main Justice has more on Smith's agenda, "Texan, Likely Chairman of House Judiciary Panel, Outlines Agenda." The Journal of Accountancy describes Smith as "a champion for the [accounting] profession's positions on tax strategy patents and liability."

In the Senate Judiciary, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) will likely continue as chairman in the 112th Congress, but Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) will bid adieu. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) is likely to rise to ranking member, replacing Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

9/11 Health Bill is on "fast track" in Senate - PointOfLaw Forum

According to press releases from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the 9/11 Health Bill will bypass Senate committee hearings and be place on a "fast track":

In late September, the U.S. House of Representatives, with the bipartisan support of 17 Republican Representatives - voted to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill was immediately sent to the U.S. Senate, where, at Senator Gillibrand's request, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked Senate Rule 14 Process, which will fast track the bill to floor consideration, bypassing the much longer and uncertain committee consideration process that the vast majority of bills undergo.

Through the fast track process, the legislation will be added to the Senate's vote schedule shortly after the next legislative session resumes, on November 15th. Negotiations on the legislation will begin immediately, making it available for a floor vote at the start of the next Senate work period. While this process does not guarantee passage, it does remove obstacles including the committee process, which could stall the bill for months or it kill it before it is brought to the floor.

This is a well-meaning but bad idea, for reasons I explained in my March 31, 2009 testimony and answers to Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee. Though I made several suggestions on how the bill could be improved to avoid what will be inevitable multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayers, they were all ignored in the House. The bill also hurts America's ability to respond to future terrorist attacks by taxing innocent third-party volunteers' liability insurance for the benefit of trial lawyers—thus guaranteeing that any liability insurer worth its salt will refuse to insure contractors and subcontractors who volunteer to help in the aftermath of the next terrorist attack.

As if to demonstrate how the bill will be a huge source of fraud, the bill is named after James Zadroga, who died from injecting prescription drugs, but has somehow become a symbol of Ground Zero workers' health problems. Earlier.

Pushing the 9/11 compensation bill through the Senate - PointOfLaw Forum

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is holding a news conference today to talk about her plan to push H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, through the Senate. By a vote of 268-160, the House last week passed the bill to reopen the 9/11 Compensation Fund. From her media advisory:

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Senate's chief sponsor of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, will work to bypass the Committee process and provide an opportunity for a full Senate vote when the Senate reconvenes next month. Nearly 16,000 responders and 2,700 community members are currently sick and receiving treatment. More than 40,000 responders are in medical monitoring and 71,000 individuals are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.

On Monday, Senator Gillibrand will visit Long Island World Trade Center Program, a health care facility that provides assistance to many of the first responders and survivors who would directly benefit from passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Senator Gillibrand will discuss her latest strategy to ensure this legislation receives the bipartisan support that will be needed to ensure the bill becomes a law.

Gillibrand's bill is S. 1334, on which a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing was held last June. That bill now differs substantially from the House version that passed (with the Obama Administration's full support). The New York Daily News report, "Senate Democrats put Zadroga 9/11 health bill on fast track," notes the opposition to the bill from business groups, which criticize the bill's tax increase on foreign companies operating in the United States.

In last week's House debate, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) include letters of opposition from the Organization For International Investment, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Foreign Trade Council in The Congressional Record.

Seems like it would be a good idea -- at least in terms of accountability and representative government -- to hold a Senate hearing to further explore the tax increases as well as questions about funds going not to patients and medical care, but rather to trial lawyers.

The 9/11 compensation fund, its expansion, the politics - PointOfLaw Forum

The House on Wednesday passed H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, by a vote of 268-160. The emotional/political force achieved by invoking the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, overwhelmed any substantive critique of the legislation.

For example, the bill included a $7.4 billion tax increase on foreign companies with U.S. operations included in the legislation, criticized by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA): "This tax increase will make it less attractive for many of these 'in-sourcing' companies to initiate or expand operations here in the United States. Potentially encouraging them to ship these jobs overseas."

The politics of medical liability reform made an appearance. A motion to recommit introduced by Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) included a package of medical liability reforms that House Republicans contend should have been in the new health care law. That motion failed 185-244. And there was talk of paying for the bill by eliminating or delaying other parts of the expanded federal health care programs. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) raged in response:

You want to re-litigate the health-care bill? OK, we're going to get to do that the first Tuesday of November. People are going to be talking was the health-care bill a good bill or a bad bill? Let's do that later. Let's do the politics later. Let's do the right thing now.

There was a lot of this making of implicit threats: We must put aside politics on this bill, and if you don't, we'll denounce you for being against the victims of 9/11.

Kate Pickert at Time magazine's Swampland blog accurately describes the politicking, "The 9/11 Bill and Political Maneuvering."

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) gave a floor speech detailing the objections to the bill. We'll link to it when the Congressional Record is published online. (Update; 2:51 p.m.: Here it is.)

UPDATE (10:30 a.m.): Also, President Obama issued a statement praising House passage. We do not find a news release from the American Association for Justice, the only non-labor union to lobby on the bill. (List of those who lobbied the bill.)

Earlier post here.


The expansion of the 9/11 compensation fund - PointOfLaw Forum

Update (5 p.m.) The bill passed after lengthy arguments and maneuvering by a vote of 268-160. We'll do a post Thursday a.m.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill creates a variety of new, redundant health programs for care of people exposed to the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. It also makes major changes to the compensation fund established in the wake of the murderous assault.

The CRS summary of the bill reports:

Title II : September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 - (Sec. 201) Amends the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act to: (1) make individuals eligible for compensation under the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 for harm as a result of debris removal; (2) extend the deadline for making a claim for compensation for physical harm not discovered before the deadline; (3) cap liability for claims related to debris removal based on the level of insurance available; (4) limit the total payment for compensation for claims filed on or after the regulations are updated pursuant to this Act; and (5) cap the amount that an individual may charge in connection with a claim under such Act, with exceptions.

[UPDATE: 11:05 a.m. If the House rule passes, the House will consider a substitute amendment.]

Despite the political sensitivities, the bill failed to gather the two-thirds majority necessary for House passage when leadership tried to push the bill through on the suspension calendar in July. (The vote was 255-159.) Although aggressively promoted by New York-area members of the House and local editorialists, the bill could run into further difficulties today. See WABC, "GOP amendments could derail 9/11 health bill," with compensation for illegal aliens being the issue.

The only groups to have lobbied in support of the measure this year (second quarter) are the labor unions and trial lawyers, that is, the American Association for Justice.

During the July floor debate, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), summarized the objections in his floor remarks:

The bill before us today... creates a brand new entitlement program that could last an additional 21 years. It creates a special compensation system for hospitals in the New York City area at 140 percent of Medicare rates, provides special protections for trial lawyers, and creates a host of special programs and special protections. It also does not require any kind of a citizenship test, Mr. Speaker, to receive a benefit. It is, in fact, apparently a $7.4 billion new entitlement program.

The minority report filed on the bill by the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee further detailed the objections:

Trial lawyer lobbying: Let the meme blossom - PointOfLaw Forum

Walter's post on lobbying by the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform prompts us to take another look at the American Association for Justice's lobbying disclosure form for the 3rd quarter. The trial lawyers' lobby lists lobbying expenses of $1.32 million for the quarter.

Like the Chamber's ILR, the AAJ pursues legislation in many, many subject areas. Is there a unifying theme? You might describes its activities thusly: "The American Association for Justice, the chief lobbying organization for the nation's trial lawyers, spent more than $1.3 million in the latest quarter trying to expand the legal grounds for suing business, government and individuals.

The trial lawyers' lobby also continued its push for a $1.6 billion tax break for its attorney members, allowing them to deduct upfront the loans they extend to clients to keep help their lawsuits alive."

Oh yes, it's there. Page 17, the taxation category:


H.R. 6049 (Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act); specific interest in Section 311 of House-passed bill, regarding uniform treatment of attorney-advanced expenses and court costs in contingency fee cases; also specific interest in the same issue in versions of the bill in which the language of Section 311 was not included (e.g. S. 3335; Jobs, Energy, Families and Disaster Relief Act; and S. Amdt. 5633 and S. Amdt. 5635 to H.R. 6049; and H.R. 7060 and H.R. 7202).

This tax subsidy for trial lawyers was a big issue last spring (see Overlawyered), and it will surely return as a priority for the AAJ during the 111th Congress.

We've put the AAJ's entire list of areas and legislation lobbied in the extended entry.

Speaking of Ground Zero dust lawsuits, I will be testifying tomorrow morning about H.R. 3543's proposal to reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund to potentially hundreds of thousands of new claimants.

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