The Senate finally cleared its legislative plate Wednesday, passing by voice vote a new 9/11 first responders health bill. The move paves the way for the chamber to recess sine die later in the day.
A deal on the 9/11 bill came after several days of negotiations among Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and New York’s Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Under their agreement, the cost of the bill was cut from $6.2 billion to $4.2 billion. The agreement cut the amount of funding that can be paid to attorneys suing for compensation and included new controls to avoid waste, fraud and abuse.
Coburn and other Republicans have come under withering criticism over the last two weeks for their opposition to the bill, and a deal to pass the bill was all but certain. The only major question had been when the two sides would come to terms.
The bill now heads to the House, which has been idling as the Senate worked out the agreement. Although scores of lawmakers have already gone home and won’t be returning for the Wednesday vote, the measure is still expected to pass by a wide margin.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.