Wednesday, December 22, 2010

US Senate Reaches Compromise on Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Fund Package; UPDATE: Passes Senate On Unanimous Consent - Back To House

The James Zadroga 9/11 compensation bill may be approved this afternoon after Senate reached a compromise - reducing the package to $4.3 billion (originally $7+ billion).
The scaled-down $4.3 billion agreement to aid ill 9/11 responders is set to be approved by the Senate as soon as Wednesday afternoon. The initial Zadroga bill called for a 10-year, $7.4 billion treatment and compensation package. To win GOP support, the proposal was trimmed down to 5 years at $4.3 billion.
The last-minute deal also opens the 9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund, but caps lawyers fees at 10%.

And it bars ailing responders from double-dipping on payouts from the recent 9/11 health settlement.
The bill cuts the time frame that the VCF will remain open to five years, which is the main reason that the fund cost is decreased. This doesn't mean that Congress wont go back and reopen the fund, just as they're about to do with this measure.

What it does is it leaves the VCF open for another five years to allow for new claims- which allows responders who become ill up to 13/14 years after the attacks to file claims. The health registry will also be funded.

Mind you that there are still questions about what ailments are actually attributable to Ground Zero exposures. Proponents of the Zadroga bill say that hundreds have died from Ground Zero exposures, while epidemiologists and medical experts are divided on the actual number of cases attributed to 9/11 exposure.

What will be interesting is how people who were involved in the 9/11 suit with the City respond - with no double dipping, some may lose out on the additional compensation via the VCF. That's going to be a major source of trouble. Rescuers and others who worked at Ground Zero after the attacks were told to take that deal because the $712 million deal would be the best they could hope to get from the City of New York and its co-defendants. If these personnel choose to receive compensation from the settlement, that would prevent them from taking part in the VCF, even if their ailment expresses itself within the next five years.

These people are in a no-win situation.

Curiously, the readers at Hot Air are miffed at the Republicans for rolling over and accepting even this deal (such as here, here, and here). They are fit to be tied over spending $4.3 billion, ignoring the fact that these people went into the Pile to rescue and recover thousands murdered on 9/11 and were reassured that the air was safe to breath by the US government (EPA) and state and local officials. They are suffering ailments from exposures and now these people think that this is somehow an entitlement for unions and Democrats?

Sorry, but that just doesn't cut it.

The government had a responsibility to look out for these responders and provide compensation for illnesses suffered as a result of their exposure. This bill makes sure that many of these people will get compensated for their health ailments. This isn't a sop to unions or Democrats, and it isn't in the same class of out-of-control spending as the stimulus package or even the Omnibus bill that was defeated. Republican obstructionism did not do the GOP any favors and the reduced price tag on this bill wasn't worth the cost politically.

The bill has passed on unanimous consent. Because different versions are involved, it has to go back to the House for ultimate passage - but I think this version will ultimately be passed.

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