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House Delays Vote On 9/11 First Responders Health Bill

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James Zadroga - File / Photo: WCBS-TV

James Zadroga (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2/AP) — Congress was delaying an expected vote on a health bill for 9/11 responders until next week, at the earliest.

A decision had been expected this week, but House Democratic leaders shortened their legislative schedule to give lawmakers more time at home to campaign.

The $7.4 billion measure was named for James Zadroga, a police detective who died at age 34 from, according to his supporters, from respiratory disease contracted at Ground Zero.

The bill would provide compensation and free health care to 9/11 workers who got sick from World Trade Center dust.

Members of Congress from New York and New Jersey have been pushing such a measure for years.

New York City’s medical examiner said Zadroga’s lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse.

Last week, first responders, survivors of the 9/11 attacks and New York lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill to lobby for passage of the bill.

“We are marking the ninth anniversary of 9/11 with a demand that Congress do what it should have done long ago — provide health care for those who lost their health because of the attacks,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a lead advocate of the bill.

In July, the bill failed to win the two-thirds majority needed under the procedure that Democratic leaders used to bring up the bill to block potential amendments. The bill fell short by a vote of 255-159.

Supporters of the bill say they’re more optimistic this time because the bill will need only a simple majority under regular parliamentary rules.

“Failure is not an option,” said John Feal, a ground zero demolition worker who has lobbied extensively for the bill.

Maloney said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has agreed to bring up the bill under regular parliamentary rules “with the expectation that neither side will play politics with this life-saving legislation.”

During the floor debate in July, GOP critics branded the bill as yet another big-government “massive new entitlement program” that would have increased taxes and possibly kill jobs.

To pay the bill’s estimated $7.4 billion cost over 10 years, the legislation would have prevented foreign multinational corporations incorporated in tax haven countries from avoiding tax on income earned in the U.S.

Bill supporters said that would close a tax loophole. Republicans branded it a corporate tax increase.

(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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