Behind closed doors, members of the House of Representatives have ended their stalemate over the 9/11 health care bill known as the Zadroga Act -- and are poised to permanently extend the law. NY1's Geoff Bennett broke the story Monday and filed this full report.
"We're on our way," said Republican Rep. Dan Donovan. "It could happen as early as this week."
The Staten Island congressman told NY1 exclusively what congressional sources would only say in private — that members of the U.S. House have broken a stalemate to permanently reauthorize the Zadroga Act. The measure provides health monitoring and treatment for 9/11 first responders. It expired but is still operating with existing funds.
Until now, lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to pay for its roughly $7 billion price tag. But Donovan says that's changed.
"Last week, Chairman [Fred] Upton, who has jurisdiction over the Energy and Commerce Committee, committed to a fully funded, permanent re-authorization of the health care fund," Donovan said. "[It's] either packaged in with the tax extenders or with the omnibus spending bill. We are hoping it could get done as early as this week."
When asked if anything on the horizon could complicate the legislative effort, Donovan said: "I don't think so. On the House side, certainly not. The people who are important to this -- the speaker, the two chairmen -- are all in sync that this is going to get done before the end of the year."
It's a major turnaround. Democrats thought the Zadroga Act would be part of a massive, five-year transportation bill passed last week, but it was left out at the last moment.
In recent weeks, 9/11 first responders and nearly every member of the New York delegation have ratcheted up pressure on Congress to permanently renew the law.
Donovan says it all appears to be working, even in the Senate.
"I think it's coming," Donovan said. "Mitch McConnell, the leader over there, is being in touch with the leadership over House. And I think everybody is settled that it's gonna happen."
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is the chief sponsor of the Zadroga Act renewal in the Senate. Her spokesperson says it's too early to claim victory in that chamber. However, Gillibrand is vowing to get the bill passed in Congress before the end of the year.