GOP lawmaker: Don’t wrap 9/11 responder law into spending package

Dec 1, 2015
In The News

As supporters of extending a health and compensation benefits program for 9/11 first responders look toward a catch-all spending package as their best chance, at least one lawmaker wants a standalone vote on the measure.

With the clock ticking toward the end of the year, lawmakers pushing for renewal of the law known as the James Zadroga Act increasingly see the government-wide spending bill, known as an omnibus, as the most likely vehicle. Parts of the Zadroga Act expired last month, but the push to renew the law has been bogged down by disagreements over spending levels, the length of the extension and offsets.

But one House Republican thinks the measure, which was last renewed in 2010, deserves its own vote.

“This needs to be done as a stand-alone bill. The reauthorization of this bill is far too important to be rolled into a package at the end of the year,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said Tuesday from the House floor.

“The first responders are undoubtedly heroes in the eyes of America. They at least deserve to have their bill heard individually,” added Burgess, who has signed onto the legislation as a co-sponsor. 

The House version of the bill to permanently renew the law currently has 257 co-sponsors, while the Senate companion has 65. Both measures would permanently renew a program to provide healthcare benefits for emergency workers who responded to the 9/11 attacks, as well as a fund to compensate victims injured in the attacks.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has called on House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to work out an agreement by the end of the year.

Goodlatte’s panel is considering its own measure to reauthorize the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund for five years instead of a permanent extension.

Maloney, the author of the House version of the bill, reiterated the push on Tuesday for her legislation.

“There’s broad bipartisan, bicameral support for a permanent reauthorization,” Maloney said in a House floor speech. “Let’s pass this bill this year.”