By a vote of 206-60 Wednesday afternoon, the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide health care and compensation to emergency responders who have become ill as the result of their exposure to harmful inhalants after the September 11 terrorists attacks.
The legislation has taken an unwieldy path through Congress, and appeared dead at several different points because of broad GOP opposition.
Along the way, various Republicans opposed the bill’s price tag, the way it was paid for and the fact that it provided first responders with prolonged access to a compensation fund that Republicans would like to see closed.As a result of their objections, the benefits to responders have shrunk: from over $7 billion, as originally passed by the House, to $6.2 billion as proposed by Senate principals, to the $4.2 billion passed by the Senate today after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) threatened to derail the bill again.
Despite these reductions, New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand hailed the final version as “The Christmas Miracle we’ve been looking for.”
GOP objections may have diminished the legislation, but they also provided Democrats with unusually potent political fodder — which they will likely draw on ahead of the 2012 elections. Earlier this year, Republican objections to the legislation fueled Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) spitting mad rant on the House floor.
The 9/11 first responders bill is the last piece of legislation the 111th Congress passed.