House Republicans in key committee show support for permanent renewal of Zadroga Act
WASHINGTON – In what 9/11 survivor advocates are calling an "important step forward," House Republicans on a key committee met about the Zadroga Act Wednesday, with many privately voicing support for a permanent reauthorization.
According to members who were at the closed-door meeting of the Republicans on the Energy & Commerce Committee, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) raised the subject of how long the bill should be reauthorized, and most of the Republicans there said they at least in principle supported a permanent rather than temporary reauthorization, with some discussing the possibility of stretching it to ten years.
"There was a pretty significant leaning amongst the committee members in favor of a permanent reauthorization," said one, who said how to fund the bill remains a big hurdle.
"It was a very positive meeting with all the members in full support of first responders and volunteers who in this case put themselves in harm's way for 9/11 and who could be called upon in the future in another catastrophic situation," said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a committee member.
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), who supports a permanent reauthorization, wasn't quite as optimistic – but said he thought the committee showed support for a longer reauthorization than the 5-year stretch some conservative Republicans have floated as a way to undercut a permanent program.
"The pay-for issue for a permanent reauthorization is a substantial problem. I'm hopeful that we can get at least get a 10-year reauthorization," he said, while voicing a personal preference for permanent funds.
Longtime advocates voiced cautious optimism about the meeting.
"It's a long way from over but it's a big step in the right direction," said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).
"This is an important step forward. We've just got to keep their feet to the fire," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
With time running out, the most likely course is for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to decide to bring a full reauthorization to a floor vote or attach it to the omnibus, the last remaining piece of must-pass legislation left this year. Ryan is listening closely to Upton and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who runs the other committee with jurisdiction over the bill.
"Paul is going to rely on the committee chairmen," said King.
Goodlatte would only tell the Daily News that "We're working on it" when asked how negotiations over the bill were coming. When pressed about whether he was moving off his preferred position – and bill – of a five-year reauthorization that would slash benefits to survivors, he ended the conversation.
"You can call my office and they'll be happy to give you my latest statement," he said when pressed as he slipped into a committee meeting.