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Progress for 9/11 First Responders' Health Care Bill

December 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Compensation Act, which would help first responders at Ground Zero who were exposed to dangerous toxins access medical care, has been kicking around Congress for nearly two years. It finally passed the House earlier this fall, but it was recently filibustered by Republicans in the Senate.

Now, the Republicans didn’t filibuster this because they hate 9/11 rescue workers. And it’s actually not because it would add to the deficit either. It’s fully offset. The reason Republicans filibustered the bill is because it would have financed the new health benefits by closing a loophole that allows companies to incorporate in tax havens and avoid paying taxes on business they conduct in the U.S.

If you look at the money trail behind the bill, the two organizations that have come out against it are very influential Republicans groups — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Tax Reform. In September, the Chamber wrote to Congress asking them to vote against the bill because the tax provision it would “discourage foreign investment in the United States” and “aggravate already unsettled financial markets.”

So Democrats are now changing the bill by taking out the tax-loophole closer, reducing the amount of benefits that would be available for first responders, and adding new pay-fors. According to the AP, “the new bill would be paid for with a fee on some foreign firms that get U.S. government procurement contracts. The bill also calls for extending fees on certain firms that rely on H-1B and L-1 visas. It would also extend fees on travelers who don’t present visa travel documents at U.S. airports.”

New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand [D] and Chuck Schumer [D] are optimistic that the changes will be enough to get this bill past Republican opposition and through the Senate before the session ends. According to Schumer, a vote will be held on Wednesday, right after the Senate finishes debate of the nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and he’s urging the House to stay in session until after the Senate votes so they can give the revised version final passage and send it to Obama for his signature.

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  • beenblue 12/20/2010 10:39am

    Thank you Donny. I know unemployment is a hot topic and garners the most activity. But I`ve got a special place in my heart for the 9/11 responders, as America has been short on heroes for a long time, these people stepped up to fill a gap in our history, where thinking of others, was more important than thinking of themselves. This speaks volumes on the currant moral and ethical climate in Washington, and should be an outrageous affront to the nation as a whole. I am one of the long term unemployed, but as my dad used to say " I complained of having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet."

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    beenblue 12/22/2010 8:16am

    It`s hard to argue against that idea, let alone the evidence that supports it. From top to bottom the whole system is a fraud. The population is drowning in misinformation which has created a polarization to the extreme amongst the citizens, and blow-back yet to be understood in the future. The few shall impose their will over the many, with the intention of ruling the world, as {The Bush`s} have stated many times “Welcome the new World Order”.

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