At the urging of what one aide called 12 "pushy" New York lawmakers, House Democratic leaders plan to bring to the floor Wednesday legislation that would extend health care aid to 9/11 first responders.
Although the bill failed to pass under a suspension of the rules in July, its supporters believe they have the votes to approve the measure under regular order and will be able to beat back any "poison-pill" amendments designed to kill the measure.
One House leadership aide on Tuesday explained the vote's timing -- on what many believe will be the last day for floor action before the Nov. 2 elections -- as the result of "12 pushy New Yorkers," who are the bill's most vocal advocates.
"I am optimistic that now is finally the time when we will provide justice to the long-suffering first responders and survivors of 9/11," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "Our legislation is a bipartisan effort to provide critical health care and compensation to those who are sick. It deserves bipartisan support from all members of Congress."
Nadler, whose district includes the former World Trade Center site, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Peter King, R-N.Y., are among the bill's main sponsors.
The $7.4 billion measure would provide health monitoring and treatment benefits to first responders and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as reopen the Victims Compensation Fund, which provided economic relief to victims and families.
The House aide said the Democratic lawmakers from New York prodded their leaders into the action, arguing that voters should not be left with the impression that the House could not pass the bill, regardless of what the Senate does. The Senate companion bill, introduced in June by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is stuck in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
When considered in July, the House bill failed to get the two-thirds majority required to pass under suspension -- a legislative strategy taken to keep Republicans from adding amendments -- although it received a clear majority with 255 votes.
The bill's supporters told the leadership they want to challenge Republican opponents of the measure to cast another recorded vote against it and force them to defend those votes. House Republicans have said the bill creates "a massive new entitlement program" and oppose the reopening of the compensation fund.
House Rules Committee Chairwoman Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who represents a district in western New York, played down the idea that such political machinations are behind the timing of Wednesday's vote.
"I think we've made a commitment to get this done -- the whole country should feel this commitment," Slaughter said. She said a lot of the first responders covered by the bill are from her district.
When she announced late last week that the stalled bill would come to House floor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wanted a "strong, bipartisan vote to pass this critical legislation."
Billy House contributed to this report.