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9/11 Health & Compensation Bill Passes House

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9/11 Health and Compensation Bill Passes House

International
Association of Fire Fighters

September 29, 2010 — Legislation to establish health treatment and monitoring
programs for World Trade Center responders was overwhelmingly approved by a
bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives.

H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, was approved
by a vote of 268-160. The vote to pass the bill followed an attempt by Representative
Christopher Lee (R-NY) and House Republican Leadership to amend H.R. 847 by
adding unrelated legislation to repeal a portion of the health care reform law
and reform the medical malpractice system. The motion failed by a vote of 185-244.
Had the motion succeeded, it would have effectively killed the bill.

“I am pleased that the 9/11 Act passed the House by an overwhelming and bipartisan
majority,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “World Trade Center
responders know they are finally one step closer to receiving the care and benefits
they need and deserve.”

The September 29 vote follows a previous attempt to pass H.R. 847 in the House
earlier this year under rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. That
attempt fell 21 votes short of a two-thirds majority.

Following that setback, the IAFF lobbied extensively to bring the bill back
up under regular order, supplementing the efforts of New York Local 94 and Local
854.

“Our two New York City affiliates, their leadership and their members lobbied
tirelessly to move the 9/11 Act forward,” says Schaitberger. “Today’s vote is
proof that effective and targeted lobbying works.”

Schaitberger thanked the bill’s sponsors and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for
her leadership and efforts to get the bill to the House floor. The bill now
proceeds to the Senate.

“Speaker Pelosi made a promise to us to get this done because it had been too
long and this bill needed to go to the House floor. Today she fulfilled her
promise,” Schaitberger says.

Congress first established screening, treatment and compensation programs for
9/11 responders shortly after the terrorist attacks, and has continued to provide
funding for the programs each year since. H.R. 847, sponsored by Representatives
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY), would strengthen
the existing programs in three important ways — expand coverage to include
those who lived near Ground Zero, create a funding mechanism so the program
is not subject to annual appropriations and reopen the Victims Compensation
Fund so people who became ill after the Fund was closed in 2003 can receive
compensation.

See also:
House Passes 9/11 Health Care Bill

29, 2010, 3:46 pm
By Raymond Hernandez
New
York Times City Room

The House on Wednesday approved legislation to provide billions of dollars
for medical treatment to rescue workers and residents of New York City who suffered
illnesses from breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at ground zero.

The vote was 268 to 160, with 17 Republicans joining Democrats in support of
the bill. Opposing the measure were 157 Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans
raised concerns about the $7.4 billion cost of the program.

The bill’s fate is unclear in the Senate. Republicans have enough votes
to filibuster the measure, and Senate Democrats have not shown great interest
in bringing the measure to the floor.

The bill aroused impassioned debate, as 9/11 responders and their relatives
watched from the House gallery.

The vote occurred as Congress moved to finish its legislative business quickly
and adjourn this week to allow lawmakers to head back home to campaign before
the Nov. 2 elections.

The bill calls for providing $3.2 billion over the next eight years to monitor
and treat injuries stemming from exposure to toxic dust and debris at ground
zero. New York City would pay 10 percent of those health costs. The bill seeks
to set aside $4.2 billion to reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
to provide compensation for any job and economic losses.

In addition, the bill includes a provision that would have allowed money from
the Victim Compensation Fund to be paid out to anyone who receives payment under
the pending settlement stemming from lawsuits that 10,000 rescue and cleanup
workers filed against the city. At the moment, anyone who receives a settlement
from the city is limited in how much compensation they can receive from the
fund, according to the bill’s sponsors.

Until now, Congress has appropriated money on an annual basis to monitor the
health of people injured at ground zero and to provide them with medical treatment.

There are nearly 60,000 people enrolled in a variety of health monitoring and
treatment programs related to the 9/11 attacks, according to the sponsors of
the bill. The federal government provides the bulk of the money for those health
programs.

The bill’s supporters have been demanding that the government institute
a more permanent health program for 9/11 responders, fearful that annual appropriations
are subject to the political whims of Congress and the White House.

But such a program has been opposed by many Republicans, who raised concerns
about creating a new federal entitlement to provide health benefits at a time
when the federal government is running a huge budget deficit

On the floor, Representative Joe L. Barton, a Republican from Texas, who opposed
the bill, argued that it was unnecessary given the fact that Congress had created
programs like the Victim Compensation Fund.

After noting that the compensation fund had made billions of dollars in payouts,
Mr. Barton said the bill would add the burden of a new entitlement program on
taxpayers. “We want to help the victims,” he said.

But the bill’s supporters argued that the nation had a moral obligation
to help workers who risked their lives to respond to the crisis at ground zero.

“The 9/11 responders have received a lot of awards and praise, but they
tell me that what they really need is health care,” said Representative
Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat from New York who was one of the bill’s
chief sponsors.

Known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the bill bears
the name of a New York City detective who participated in the rescue and recovery
efforts at ground zero for about three weeks after the Sept. 11 attack.

He in died in January 2006 after he developed symptoms common to first responders,
including difficulty breathing and flulike symptoms. But the cause of his death
became the source of debate after the city’s medical examiner concluded
that his death was not directly related to the 9/11 attacks.

Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, who described the bill
as an “irresponsible overreach,” seized on the controversy surrounding
Mr. Zadroga’s death, saying: “This bill is deceptive, starting with
its title.”

The vote on Wednesday was the second time this year that the House took up
the 9/11 health bill.

In July, Democratic leaders brought the bill to the floor under special rules
requiring a two-thirds majority to pass it. A majority of the lawmakers in the
chamber supported the bill, but the vote in July fell short of the two-thirds
margin needed.

At the time, Democrats were concerned that a vote under normal rules requiring
a simple majority would have allowed Republicans to propose a controversial
amendment that sought to deny 9/11 health benefits to illegal immigrants.

The amendment would probably have divided Democratic support for the original
health bill into two camps: moderates who might feel political pressure to deprive
illegal immigrants of such benefits and liberals who flatly oppose the Republican
amendment.