The Omnibus Budget bill came out late last night and it appears Congress did the right thing. It will provide about $3.5 billion for the vitally important World Trade Center Health Program, guaranteeing that more than 72,000 known responders and survivors will have access to health care for 75 years. Another $4.6 billion will go to extend the 9/11 Victims Compensation Program for five more years. Huffington Post reports:
The major battles were focused on the question of how the bill would be paid for, with a number of the sponsors’ offers being rejected. Ultimately the bill used funding that had been earmarked for other measures that were running into opposition. One of the funding streams used for the 9/11 compensation fund will also provide over $1 billion to compensate U.S. victims of the Iran hostage crisis, the 1983 attacks on the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. That was a key goal of House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
Congress still has to pass the spending bill, but Republican leaders expect that to happen by Thursday.
As always, the devil is in the details and advocates are pouring through the legislation now to ensure there are no other “surprises” hidden there. However, news that Congress will reauthorize the 9-11 Fund without using Medicare and Medicaid as an ATM (once again) is good news for our brave 9-11 first-responders and also millions of Americans and their families who depend on Medicare and Medicaid for their healthcare.