POLITICS

New 9/11 Bill Hits Last-Minute Snags, Large Cuts

Sources say the Energy and Commerce Committee is mistakenly cutting the bill and almost left off the name.

12/10/2015 08:32 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Just when it looked like a new 9/11 health and compensation law was on the brink of being finalized -- and after House Speaker Paul Ryan threw his support behind it -- sources told The Huffington Post troubling last-minutes snags were emerging.

At one point, sources said, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the health portion of the bill, had left off the name of the legislation -- the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It was named after a New York City detective who died from illnesses he contracted working on the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks.

"It just shows how inept and uncaring they are," said one advocate who requested anonymity while negotiations are still ongoing.

The name issue got fixed, but more problematically, the sources said, the committee has refused to use as its template for the bill the legislation that has already been drawn up by lead sponsors Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). That legistlation has more than 260 co-sponsors in the House and 67 in the Senate.

It's a problem because it allows errors to creep into a measure that has been put together over many years and vetted by experts in the Obama administration and in the field working to provide health care to more than 33,000 ailing responders.

One advocate who was familiar with the most recent version drafted by the Energy and Commerce Committee staff said that it would end up costing the health effort hundreds of millions of dollars.

Under the Zadroga Act passed in 2010, which began to expire in September, any money that was left over from one year's allocation was allowed to be rolled into the final year of the program. It's that leftover money that has allowed the health work to continue, even though the authorization expired Sept. 30.

The new draft keeps that provision -- except that the new bill is permanent, and there is no final year, so the money left over at the end of any given year has nowhere to go. If the cancers and lung diseases that responders suffer from turn out to be worse than expected, there would not be enough money to treat everyone, and no way to transfer cash from previous years.

"It has to be fixed," the advocate said. “I believe that Speaker Ryan wants to get this done the right way, and he is not going to be happy about this.”

Advocates for the bill said Friday that many of the issues were being ironed out over the course of Friday, and hoped that a final version of the bill could be finished soon.

Representatives for the committee did not return repeated email requests seeking comment.

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