This was a vote on final passage of legislation establishing a new health care program for 9/11 rescue workers who became ill as a result of their rescue efforts following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A number of rescue workers developed respiratory diseases as a result of toxic chemicals at the site of the attacks.
To pay for the cost of the rescue workers’ medical care, the bill required U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations to pay taxes on income earned in the U.S. Democrats contended this simply helped to ensure proper tax withholdings, while many Republicans argued it would prove to be a “job-killing tax.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) urged support for the bill and made a direct appeal to Republican members: “Now let me appeal to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I understand that some may have a problem with the offset [the tax on foreign corporations], even though it is not aimed at U.S. companies and is simply designed to improve withholding of taxes that are legally due….But I have to ask this: Just consider for a moment what we are talking about. Balance that tax rate against the needs of our 9/11 heroes, needs that are so great, so raw, and so obvious, and let our moral obligation to the heroes of 9/11, our obligation, as Lincoln said, `to care for him who shall have borne the battle,' prevail. Let us do the honorable thing and vote for this bill….I will be voting today for the firefighters, for the police, for the first responders, for the survivors of the attacks. I urge every Member of the house to do the same.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) also urged support for the bill: “ An estimated 36,000 Americans have received treatment for illnesses as a direct result of 9/11. Those who are suffering come from all of our 50 States and 428 of the 435 congressional districts nationwide were represented at 9/11....Thousands of people lost their lives 9 years ago, but thousands and thousands more lost their health. This is not an entitlement. This is a responsibility to take care of those who took care of us when our country was attacked.”
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) urged opposition to the bill: “…The bill would impose a $7.4 billion tax hike on U.S. businesses that happen to be headquartered overseas but that create good, high-paying American jobs right here at home in communities across this great country. These…companies provide significant employment in the United States, with many of these jobs in the manufacturing sector….With the unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent and businesses across the country continuing to struggle to meet payroll, now is the worst possible time for a tax hike on employers that will cost us more jobs.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) argued that the fund established by the bill to pay for medical care for affected rescue workers amounted to “a huge $8.4 billion slush fund paid for by taxpayers that is open to abuse, fraud, and waste.” He urged members to oppose the measure: “Why does Congress continue to overreach and consider taxpayers to be their personal slush fund? There is no excuse for this kind of legislation, and I hope thoughtful Members will want to oppose the bill.”
The House passed the 9/11 rescue workers health bill by a vote of 268-160. 251 Democrats and17 Republicans voted “yea.” 157 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation establishing a new health care program for 9/11 rescue workers who became ill as a result of their rescue efforts following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.