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In 'Christmas miracle,' NY senators predict passage of WTC health bill

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer at Sunday's

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer at Sunday's news conference. (Dec. 19, 2010)

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Sunday declared they have the Republican support necessary to pass a revised Zadroga 9/11 health bill, a development Gillibrand called a “Christmas miracle.”

The New York Democrats presented a scaled-down version of the measure, which would provide medical care for responders sickened by toxins at Ground Zero, with a smaller price tag. The earlier $7.4 billion version stalled in the U.S. Senate after GOP opponents declared it too costly. Schumer and Gillibrand on Sunday unveiled a $6.2 billion option to be paid in part with taxes imposed on foreign firms.

“The clock is winding down but we are on the verge of an 11th-hour breakthrough,” Schumer said. “Barring a setback, we believe we are on the path to victory by the end of the week.” Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is among the Republicans expected to vote in favor of the bill.

The bill’s passage would make Schumer and Gillibrand “New York heroes and national heroes,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said. Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall on Monday morning will join other leaders to push for passage of the bill.

If the Senate passes the revised bill, the House also must vote on it before the end of the year.

One of the chief opponents, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), last week was criticized for saying Democrats were “fooling around” and wasting time with the 9/11 bill.

Now, with the measure’s price tag lowered and the question of its funding answered, it’ll be hard for Republicans to find grounds to vote against it, said Princeton University public affairs professor Julian Zelizer.

“Not everyone in the GOP is with McCain on this one. The Democrats can come out of this lame-duck session with another victory,” said Zelizer, citing the extension of unemployment benefits and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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