At a news conference today to celebrate the passage of the 9/11 Health bill, Congressman Jerry Nadler took a shot at the U.S. Senate, calling it “the graveyard of so much good legislation,” and indeed, after the vote on the measure yesterday, many members of the House have been quietly crumbling that the bill basically got halved in the upper chamber, going from a $7.4 billion measure to a $4.3 after defecit hawks objected. There was even some chatter that the Senate should insist on keeping the bill as written and force recalcitrant Republicans to vote against the health care of 9/11 first responders.
After the news conference however, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the key architects of the measure, defended the bill, saying that the lower price tag came from shortening the window from ten years to five years in which victims can receive compensation.
“The final deal was something that could bring the whole Senate together to pass. And we kept the whole program in tact,” she said. Particularly for the Victim’s Compensation Fund most of the costs are in the first five years. So to be able to deliver that money now is when the families desperately need it. We could have fought for ten years but we might have failed.”
And she said that once the program was in place, backers could go back to the Senate and try to get it extended.
“We can go back to the drawing board in four years and fight for the next five years, but it was far more important to set up the program and deliver the care now,” she said. “Once the program is created we can prove how effective and efficient it is at delivering the care, and so that will give us the momentum and the argument to push for further funding later. Ultimately we want to cover these people forever.”