Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 22, 2010

DEAL STRUCK ON 9/11 HEALTH BILL, SENATE PASSAGE VERY LIKELY.... Key players in the Senate debated privately for hours last night, trying to work out a deal on the 9/11 health bill. As of this morning, the fate of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would pay health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to toxic smoke and debris, was still in doubt.

The votes appeared to be in place to overcome a Republican filibuster, but in the interests of time, the Senate was seeking unanimous consent. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) refused to go along.

As of this afternoon, the New York Daily News, which has done fantastic work covering the issue, reports that a deal appears to have been struck that will allow for final passage.

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand met with other senators' staffers and aides to Rep. Carolyn Maloney's office until well after midnight to cut a new deal on a measure to aid ailing 9/11 responders.

The agreement trims the cost of the package to $4.3 billion, sources close to the deal said.

The proposal had initially cost $7.4 billion, and had been trimmed earlier this week to $6.2 billion.

Senators reached a final agreement on the proposal at about 11:30 Wednesday morning after the New York Democrats met for an hour with the prime GOP opponents, Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The Senate leadership has reportedly signed off on the agreement, and expects to pass the bill this afternoon. Greg Sargent and ABC's Rick Klein are hearing the same thing.

If all goes according to plan -- and at this point, it should -- this should clear quite a few things up. Not only will 9/11 heroes be able to get much-needed medical care, but New START ratification can proceed this afternoon, too. The House, which has been cooling its heels waiting for the Zadroga bill, should be able to pass this with relative ease -- more than 90% of House Republicans opposed it when it initially passed the chamber, but given recent developments, and unanimous Senate support, it stands to reason they'll be more supportive later today.

As for the substantive changes, there's a real concern that reducing the cost of the package to $4.3 billion, from $7.4 billion, will undercut the amount of care available, and the number of rescue workers who'll be eligible. It's possible, then, that the next Congress will have to revisit this issue in the future.

In the meantime, Democratic negotiators very likely concluded that $4.3 billion is far better than zero. For those sick first responders and their families, this is still excellent news.

Update: At 2:31 p.m., the Senate unanimously approved the 9/11 health bill. The House is expected to act within two hours.

Steve Benen 1:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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I wonder how they paid Coburn's ransom demands.

Posted by: puravida on December 22, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I know how they paid Kyl's START demands- billions of dollars for new nukes, and places to build them!

Posted by: DAY on December 22, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

This move, if it works, is a nice example how a party can prioritize governance over politics. From a purely political perspective, the Dems would be better off NOT revisiting the 9/11 bill and letting the GOP reap the consequences of their no votes. By doing what it takes to get this thing passed, the Dems are allowing the GOP off the hook, passing up on the chance to exploit sick and dying 9/11 responders in future campaign ads. Of course, the result will, hopefully, be fewer sick and dying 9/11 responders--which is what a party that cares about governance should be concerned about.

Posted by: KenS on December 22, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, since it was only a portion of care, since it will be taken up next congress, it will STILL, force republicans to vote for or against it, this is a good idea, while still providing help now ...

Posted by: Michael on December 22, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

No thanks to most of the news networks and newspapers.
BIG thanks to Jon Stewart of a f*cking COMEDY CHANNEL, of all things, for embarrassing the RepbuliConfederates into doing the humane thing.

And yes, it may not be the total dollars requested, but it's a start. And further allocations in the future is a possibility - as long as others besides Stewart keep on the their asses.

And a comedy channel star shall lead them...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 22, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

We endorse this new version of the bill to provide health care for 9/11 responders.

We do so, because:
- it reduces the number of persons eligible
- it changes the sources of funding from Foreign Corporations who are among our contributors to funding from individuals via visa fees

Posted by: U.S. Chamber of Commerce on December 22, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Coburn's vote only cost $1.9b. Give him credit, he may be a whore, but at least he's not a cheap whore.

According to the WSJ...

“On the insistence of GOP lawmakers, it will also include provisions to study health information technology, and whether such health care should be provided through Veterans Affairs hospitals, according to people familiar with the talks.”

Sounds to me like Coburncare has death panels.

Posted by: Chesire11 on December 22, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with you, KenS, that the Dems' willingness to compromise shows a grown-up desire to prioritize good policy over demagoguery. But part of me thinks we could have had both. Steve B's comment that this bill might be insufficient, and might have to be revisited (good luck w/ that) makes me wish that we had held out for a better deal. Imagine that Harry Reid calls the Senate back into session for the sole purpose of voting on the original 9/11 bill. It'd be the only story in town--no chance the MSM could duck it this time. How could the Republicans vote no on a $7 billion bill that was paid for by closing corp tax loopholes after forcing $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy that aren't paid for at all? I think they would have caved, and we would have gotten the best of both worlds.

Posted by: WSP on December 22, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

The bill that's ready for passage provides 40% less money than the original. Please give me room while I attempt to jump for joy. Or maybe I'll just stand for a grin.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on December 22, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

KenS raises what might be the key difference between the general approach of the national Republican and Democratic parties.

Republicans act like hard-core litigators: they're willing to completely walk away from a deal if they don't get exactly what they want. Even when they are advocating their own policies, which we (and usually they) know are counter-productions.

Democrats act like mediators: they're willing to give up 49% (or more) to get a bill that is at least 50.1% effective, even when negotiating with a party that effectively has no credible solutions to 99% of the problems we face.

Basically, when children and adults have equal say, you end up with childish policies that adults have to implement and accept responsibility for. It's a bad deal.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on December 22, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Senate Minority Leader Jon Stewart deserves our thanks.

Oh. Wait.

Posted by: Cazart on December 22, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

While I'm happy this has passed, I can't help but believe the cuts made to it were simply to satisfy Coburn's petty ego so he could save face.

Posted by: JWK on December 22, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

I must be a bad and immature Dem, because WSP's (@13:33) solution is what I'd have promoted too. Don't change the financing -- it had been fine. And don't allow the slashing by 40%, requiring a come back for more (unlikely to pass). There were votes enough to pass it, just not enough time before Christmas to pass it at an expedited rate, because of Coburn's temper tantrums. So come back after Christmas and do it at the normal rate (3 days?). Let Coburn enjoy his ashes, coals and switches he'd get from Santa.

Sure, it's better than nothing but, since this lame duck has shown some signs of being a swan, why not let it take full wing?

Posted by: exlibra on December 22, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK



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