First Responders Health

9/11 Health Bill Faces Last Chance in Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's deal-making time in Congress as lawmakers prepare to plow through a pile of must-pass legislation before heading home for the holidays.

That means winners, losers, and last-minute maneuvering to find a vehicle for favored causes, stave off cuts or promote pet projects.

The five-year highway bill that Congress must pass ahead of a deadline Friday has become the vehicle for several extraneous measures. Lawmakers also must pass a package of spending bills by Dec. 11 to keep the government funded, and extend dozens of expiring tax breaks, some dear to Democrats and others favored by Republicans.

A few of the items in the mix in Congress' year-end rush:


Despite the efforts of New York lawmakers, the highway bill does not contain language to extend a law providing medical monitoring, treatment and compensation for first responders after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, which expired earlier this year

, established the World Trade Center Health Program to help first responders affected by Sept. 11-related illnesses such as pulmonary diseases and cancers.

Democrats claim McConnell refused to allow the provision in the highway bill unless they agreed in exchange to lifting the ban on oil exports. McConnell's spokesman, Don Stewart, contended that no final proposal ever was advanced and negotiations continue.

The measure could end up in a different year-end bill. House Judiciary Committee chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., said in a statement that "we are close to a final deal" to provide a fully funded five-year extension of the compensation portion of the law, which provides payments to people who suffered physical harm after the attacks.

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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Joan Lowy and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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