NY Lawmakers Applaud Passage Of 9/11 Health Bill After Congress OKs Year-End Budget Deal
WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Congress on Friday sent President Barack Obama a bipartisan a trillion dollar spending bill to fund the government through next September, which includes an agreement to reauthorize the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
A 65-33 Senate vote on the measure was the last act that shipped the measure, combining $1.14 trillion in new spending in 2016 and $680 billion in tax cuts over the coming decade, to Obama.
The legislation earlier swept through the House on a pair of decisive votes on Thursday and Friday, marking a peaceful end to a yearlong struggle over the budget, taxes, and Republican efforts to derail Obama’s regulatory agenda.
New York’s elected officials applauded the inclusion of the Zadroga Act, which extended federal health monitoring and treatment to Sept. 11 first responders through 2090.
The legislation also would pay an additional $4.6 billion into a compensation fund for victims and extend if for five years.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Sept. 11 first responders “can finally feel secure that they will have health care for the rest of their lives.”
Sen. Charles Schumer said passage of the bill means “some peace of mind for each and every hero.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed “a long-overdue victory for the more than 56,000 9/11 responders and survivors in New York state today.”
“We achieved everything we set out to accomplish,” New York Rep. Dan Donovan said in a statement. “It’s a total and complete win for the heroes who risked their lives to save others after the worst terrorist attack in our history.”
“If there was ever a bipartisan issue, it was this,” New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney told 1010 WINS. “I can’t tell you how happy I am, how absolutely happy I am, that first responders will be able to have their health care and know that they have their health care permanently.”
James Lamonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, described his reaction with a simple adjective: “I’m grateful.”
This, despite having to send sick firefighters to lobby Congress for funding, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.
“Our members, we would put out the call for help, and those that are stricken with cancer and lung ailments, we would put them on a bus at 4 a.m. for that long trip down to Washington,” he said.
Lamonda said there are over 1,000 firefighters alone who were sickened after working at Ground Zero following the terror attacks, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
“They saw all the suffering, all the pain, and they knew that this was the right thing to do,” he said of Congress.
The 9/11 legislation is named after James Zadroga, a responder who died after working at Ground Zero. It first became law in 2010, and the health benefits expired this fall.
Obama has promised to sign the measure, which also includes many of the spending increases he has demanded all year. Among the Republican victories are a big boost for the military and an end to the four-decade ban of exporting U.S. crude oil.
The measure received big majorities in the House from Republicans and Democrats. It capped an impressive first few weeks for new Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who got the benefit of the doubt from most Republicans, many of whom opposed similar legislation last year and earlier legislation that established the framework for the budget package. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, a key negotiator, swung forcefully behind the measure after showing frustration over its lifting of an oil export ban.
“They wanted big oil so much that they gave away the store,” Pelosi said. But she cited successes in driving away most GOP policy proposals from the measure. Democrats also pushed through higher domestic budgets and tax breaks for working families and renewable energy.
“This bipartisan compromise secures meaningful wins for Republicans and the American people, such as the repeal of the outdated, anti-growth ban on oil exports,” Ryan said, citing a large increase for the Pentagon and curbs on the activities of the Environmental Protection Agency and the IRS.
Some tea party lawmakers were dismayed by the burst of spending and a lack of wins for conservatives.
“There are so many things in this bill that will be surprising and shocking to the American people,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. “Maybe there is a Santa Claus. At least in the House.”
The measure won support from Republicans by a 150-95 margin. Democrats followed Pelosi’s lead and backed the bill by a 166-18 margin.
Both parties scored political coups.
More than 50 expiring tax cuts will be extended, with more than 20 becoming permanent, including credits for companies’ expenditures for research and equipment purchases and reductions for lower-earning families and households with children and college students.
The spending measure would fund the operations of every Cabinet agency. It awards increases of about 6 percent, on average, above tight spending caps that were a relic of a 2011 budget and debt deal — and were opposed by both GOP defense hawks and Democrats seeking boosts in domestic spending.
The House vote bundled with the spending measure with a tax bill that passed on Thursday.
Republicans in the Senate were evenly split with 27 of them voting in favor and 26 against the bill. Presidential contender Marco Rubio was absent. Only six Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders, another presidential hopeful, voted against the measure.
“Washington’s leadership has created another massive spending bill in secret and rammed it through Congress, hoping that the American people don’t notice or have become numb to this kind of business as usual,” Rubio said in a statement, adding that it demonstrates that Congress needs “conservative presidential leadership.”
GOP presidential aspirants Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted against the bill, while longshot Lindsey Graham of South Carolina supported it.
Congress now plans to adjourn until January.
The budget pact was the last major item in a late-session flurry of bipartisanship in Washington, including easy passage of long-stalled legislation funding highway programs and a rewrite of education programs.
Many on each side saw the budget deal as the best they could get under divided government. The need to win Obama’s signature helped rid the measure of most of the controversial GOP provisions: killing federal money for Planned Parenthood, limiting the flow of Syrian refugees and undoing dozens of Obama actions on the environment, labor, financial regulation and relations with Cuba.
The measure contains large spending boosts for veterans and medical research, and funds a familiar roster of grants for transportation projects, first responders and community development.
It also clears away an almost $1 billion backlog of federal courthouse projects and sends hundreds of millions of dollars to the states and districts of a handful of powerful lawmakers such as Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the chairmen of the Appropriations committees.
Also crammed into the two bills are provisions trimming some of the levies that help finance Obama’s prized 2010 health care overhaul. The White House opposed the rollbacks, but Republicans and many Democrats savored them. A tax on medical devices would be suspended for two years, a levy on health insurers would stop for a year and, in a victory for unions, a tax on higher-cost insurance policies would be postponed two years until 2020.
In exchange for ending the oil export ban, Democrats won extensions of tax breaks for alternative power sources such as solar and wind energy.