Monday, December 20, 2010

Sen. Gillibrand: 9/11 Health Bill Has Votes To Pass

You would think that the James Zadroga 9/11 health care/compensation bill would have had the votes to pass long ago, but this bill has been held up by politics for far too long. Now, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) says that the votes are now available after certain portions of the bill have been scaled back.
Both the House and Senate must approve the bill before the end of the year. If they do not, the matter gets kicked to the new, more Republican Congress in January, where prospects for passage are slimmer.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is vowing to do everything possible to get the new version of the bill passed in her chamber before the lame-duck session ends, though it is not clear there there will be time to do so. (The House passed the $7.4 billion version of the bill in September.) Over the weekend, Schumer urged the House to stay in session to pass the bill.

The bill got 57 votes in a recent Senate test vote, three short of the 60 it needs to break a Republican-led filibuster. One of those no votes, however, was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who switched his vote at the end so that he could bring the bill up again. That means only two votes need to be picked up for passage, assuming no senator switches from yes to no.

The new version of the bill addresses Republican objections that it amounted to a corporate tax increase, the Associated Press reports. They objected to a requirement that multinational corporations pay taxes on income earned in the United States even if they are incorporated in a tax haven.

The new version pays for the costs of the bill with a fee on some foreign companies that get procurement contracts from the U.S. government. It also calls for an extension of some visa-related fees.
The newer version would reduce the cost of the bill from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion without reducing the benefits that go to the Ground Zero responders by adjusting tax provisions.

The bill would reopen the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for Ground Zero responders and provide additional funds for those responders and additional medical screening services.

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