To the joy of Jon Stewart (presumably) and many a New Yorker it appears that the Senate really is going to vote on the 9/11 Health Bill, AKA the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, either tomorrow or Wednesday. The vote comes after its supporters, NY Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, managed to cut the cost of the bill from $7.4 billion down to $6 billion. But how'd they do that?
One of the major Republican issues with the original bill was that it paid for itself by closing tax loopholes which the GOP felt was akin to hiking taxes. To skirt that problem the new version instead adds a 2% fee on federal contracts for foreign companies whose home countries bar U.S. firms from their government contracts. That is expected to raise $4.5 billion of the costs. Fees on work visas for companies that outsource jobs and the extension of an existing travel tourism visa fee should make up the rest.
But even if the bill makes it through the Senate in the coming days (the Republican votes seem to be there) it isn't exactly clear sailing. Because of the changes to the bill the House, which approved the bill at $7.4 billion, will have to vote on it again. As Schumer puts it, "It's not a done deal. There may yet be unforeseen hurdles. But barring a setback, we believe we are on a path to victory by the end of this week."
But wouldn't it be a lovely, and long overdue, Christmas present if it passed?