WASHINGTON -- House Republicans Thursday filed bills to renew the Zadroga 9/11 Act's health and compensation programs for first responders, but only for another five years.
Despite lobbying by first responders and activists for a permanent extension, Republicans proposed a second five-year term for the victims compensation fund, which expires in 2016, and the World Trade Center health program, whose authorization ran out on Oct. 1.
Democrats called the proposals flawed and inadequate.
The GOP measures emerged on the day Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced she has a filibuster-proof 61 co-sponsors for permanent renewal of the act.
The House companion bill has 237 co-sponsors, more than the 218 needed for passage. Yet powerful House committee chairs back the GOP bills.
Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and two others filed the victims compensation fund bill, which includes $2.8 billion in funding and sets up a fund to compensate U.S. families of victims killed in state-sponsored terrorist acts.
A Judiciary aide said the bill balances victims' needs with the money available, and the five-year sunset allows a future Congress to reassess the needs. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, issued a discussion draft for the health program renewal.
Manhattan Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler said Goodlatte's bill could result in "current claimants seeing their awards cut by as much as 60 percent."
They said Pitts' draft "falls woefully short of what is needed to meet our commitments."
Ben Chevat, who leads the lobbying group Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, said, "It's just not enough to actually help make sure that 9/11 responders get the help they need."
Rep. Peter King, (R-Seaford), who's not happy with the GOP bills, said, "The key thing is that both committees agree that the act has to be authorized. I expect it to be reauthorized by the end of the year."