The House passed a bill to give $7.4 billion to workers sickened during the cleanup of the World Trade Center sit on Wednesday. The September 11, 2001 attacks affected more than the victims and the buildings. During the cleanup many of the workers were sickened. These workers are known as the living victims of 9/11. New York lawmakers have been pushing for approval of this bill for several years. Rep Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. was a lead advocate for the bill and said “To the living victims of 9/11, we have good news: Help is on the way.”
There is similar legislation pending in the Senate, but Congress is departing until after fall midterm elections which leave the prospects for passing the legislation unclear. Lawmakers in New York say they will push to bring the bill to the Senate floor once Congress returns.
Many ailing 9/11 responders were present in the House gallery to witness the vote.
Opponents of the bill claimed several reasons why the bill should not be passed including:
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton claimed the bill is a “new entitlement program that we simply cannot afford.”
Lamar Smith, also a Texas Republican complained that the bill “created a huge slush fund open to abuse, fraud and waste.”
The general consensus of the Republican critics was that the bill is a big government program that would kill jobs and boost taxes.
The bill provides free health care and compensation to all 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who became ill after working in the ruin of the World Trade Centers. There are some questions remaining concerning what illnesses may have been caused by soot. Many workers inhaled soot because they had no respirators to protect their lungs.
Scientists and doctors have documented elevated levels of what is similar to asthma symptoms and illness in the 9/11 workers. However doctors also claim that many of the workers who are ill are suffering from common conditions which may not be linked to dust or soot from the WTC.
In July this bill did not pass the House vote, so this second showdown is a great victory. In order to pay the estimated $7.4 billion cost over the next 10 years the legislation requires that multinational companies that are incorporated in tax havens to pay taxes on income earned in the United States. The bill supporters claimed that would close a tax loophole, while the Republicans claim it is a corporate tax increase.
Police detective James Zadroga who died at age 34 from what is believed to be a respiratory disease contracted at the site, is honored posthumously by having the bill named after him. The passionate floor debate Wednesday allowed supporters of the bill to stand up for the heroes who went in, who risked their health and their lives to rescue, to search and to clean up the mess made by the WTC attack. The bill passed with a vote of 268-160. Rep. Jerrold Nadler Democrat-N.Y. said “Today, members of the House put aside politics and made history by voting in favor of justice and care for the responders and survivors of 9/11.