Bid to Revive 9/11 Care Bill


AUGUST 3, 2010

Bid to Revive 9/11 Care Bill

Lawmakers Try to Resolve Standoff


WASHINGTON—New York lawmakers have begun discussing ways of rescuing a bill to provide health care for ill Ground Zero workers following its defeat on the House floor last week after a bitter battle.

The bill was voted down late Thursday night amid angry partisan finger-pointing, and now Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney and others have begun weighing options to make the bill more tolerable to factions on the right and left.

The bill sparked a nasty public fight between two New York lawmakers—Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican, and Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Queens Democrat—over the use of a parliamentary procedure to vote on the bill without amendments, requiring a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority.

As the bill headed for defeat, Messrs. King and Weiner engaged in a furious shouting match on the House floor—not uncommon among lawmakers, but rarely seen between two from the same state who voted together on the bill in question.

On Monday, both men insisted there was a way forward, even if they haven't found it yet.

"Some of the dust is still settling,'' Mr. Weiner said. "We are still bound and determined to get something done. The questions of process and numbers haven't gotten easier to solve but I do think all the attention has made it politically imperative for us to do so.''

Mr. King said it's not yet clear how to resolve the standoff, but said "it's up to the Democrats. My concern is, if the Democratic leadership couldn't bring it up for a simple majority vote in July, how do they get the courage to bring it up in September?''

Already, Democrats are signaling a shift in strategy. Ms. Maloney said that when the House reconvenes in September, she will seek a straight-majority vote.

That strategy would have to address the Democrats' underlying fears about such a vote: If given the chance, Republicans will add amendments on immigration and health care that would force the majority to cast tough votes on those issues just two months before the election.

Democratic leadership opted for the two-thirds vote specifically to avoid amendments to bar payment for Ground Zero-related health treatment for illegal immigrants, or any measures that would dismantle parts of the major health-care overhaul passed earlier this year.

It's unlikely either topic will fade away.

Another potential area for compromise: crafting a new way to pay for the $7.4 billion measure, other than reapplying a tax on U.S. operations of foreign-registered firms. Many GOP members call that an old-fashioned tax hike, and some Democrats privately say they can scoop up more Republican support if they find another way to pay for the bill.

One potential pick-up from making that change is Buffalo-area Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican. Mr. Lee, who was a co-sponsor of a piece of the bill before he voted against it Thursday, said sick Ground Zero workers "deserve better than being used as a political football.''