Legislation to improve health care services to rescue workers who became ill as a result of breathing dangerous fumes and dust at the World Trade Center may receive a second chance after being blocked by Senate Republicans last week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to bring up a scaled-down version of the 9/11 first responders health bill for another vote during the lame-duck session. The bill is expected after the Senate votes on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on Tuesday.
Forty-one of the 42 Republican Senators voted against considering the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 last week, with one Republican, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kentucky, abstaining.
At the last minute, Democrat Sen. Reid also voted against the bill in a parliamentary move which allowed him to bring the legislation up for a second vote.
The US Chamber of Commerce was behind an intense lobbying campaign to kill the bill because it would have closed a tax loophole allowing multinational companies incorporated in tax havens to avoid paying taxes on income earned in the US. The revenue generated from taxing these companies would be used to pay for health services and provide financial compensation for 9/11 rescue workers.
In a letter opposing the 9/11 bill, R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for Government Affairs, cautioned that closing the tax loophole would harm US trade relationships and financial markets.
Democratic lawmakers believe that by reducing the cost of the bill from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion and by providing a new way for the legislation to be financed, the bill will have enough support to be passed in the Senate.
“I’m aiming for a Christmas miracle that would fulfill our moral obligation to these heroes before the end of the year,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a media advisory. “Due to the tireless effort of so many first responders and survivors, after nine long years we are close to fulfilling our duty to the 9/11 heroes, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The new bill is expected to win the favor of Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, sources told the Wall Street Journal. The legislation, which is supported unanimously by Democrats, needs only two Republican votes to pass.
She also told CBS News on Monday that the 9/11 bill has enough support to be passed, but did not specify which Republican Senators supported the new bill.
Although the bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives, if the new Senate version of the legislation is passed, the updated bill will need to be voted on by the House again.