Congressional negotiators didn’t include a $3 billion fix to shore up the World Trade Center Health Program in a must-pass bill to fund the federal government, ensuring it won’t be addressed this year.
The massive $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations package to fund the government filed after midnight doesn’t include the $3.6 billion fix among the long list of items attached to the legislation (
The demise of the provision the New York delegation pushed drew sharp criticism from comedian and veterans’ advocate Jon Stewart, who said the omission shows emergency personnel like the firemen and police who responded to the 9/11 attacks are Congress’ “last priority.” He criticized the omission amid a large increase in defense spending.
“Congress fails to close funding gap in World Trade Center Healthcare Program but DOD gets an extra $850 billion,” Stewart tweeted. “Priorities!!”
The program created in 2011 provides for medical treatments to first responders and other attack survivors. The formula for distributing the funds, however, hasn’t kept up with actual costs and as a result could soon be forced to stop accepting new members.
Gillibrand said the fix was necessary to ensure many people exposed to toxins at Ground Zero continue to get cancer treatments. She called the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act (
Democrats said the fix faced opposition from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and they were forced in eleventh hour negotiations to drop the provision.
Gillibrand said in a statement Schumer “strongly” advocated for the provision and said the matter isn’t over.
“And I intend on working with him to pass this fix in the future, either as a standalone bill or as part of a larger package,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “We have never failed our 9/11 heroes and we don’t intend to start now.”
Schumer said the omnibus contains a long list of other wins for the public, including expanded coverage for health programs across the board.
“From start to finish, from top to bottom, this omnibus is bold, generous, far-reaching and ambitious,” Schumer said in outlining Democrats’ wins. “It’s not everything we would have wanted. When you’re dealing in a bipartisan, bicameral way, you have to sit down and get it done and that means each side has to concede some things, but it is something that we can be very proud of.”
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