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Senate Republicans Block Bill for Ill 9/11 Workers

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Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Republicans blocked a bill providing as much as $7.4 billion in health costs for thousands of volunteers and workers ill from toxic dust after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The 57-to-42 vote along party lines cut off debate three votes short of the 60 needed to bring the bill to the floor under the Senate’s procedural rules. Republicans objected that the program would have been financed by eliminating a tax break given to foreign corporations with U.S. subsidiaries.

The bill, named after James Zadroga, a New York City police officer who died of respiratory disease after working on recovery operations in the trade center rubble, passed the House of Representatives in September.

The Senate vote is “a tragic example of partisan politics trumping patriotism,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an e-mailed statement. He urged the Republicans to reconsider.

“We have a collective responsibility to care for the heroes -- from all 50 states -- who answered the call of duty, saved lives and helped our nation recover,” Bloomberg said.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said today’s procedural vote hasn’t killed the bill.

“Republicans asked that the Senate first pass the funding bill and the bill to prevent tax hikes,” he said in an e-mail. Democrats “can call a vote on it again after the tax and government-funding bills are complete.”

‘Stop at Nothing’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, criticized Republicans for derailing the bill after reaching an agreement this week with President Barack Obama to keep the Bush-era tax cuts in place for top earners.

“Republicans denied adequate health care to the heroes who developed illnesses from rushing into burning buildings on 9/11,” Reid said in a statement. “Yet they will stop at nothing to give tax breaks to millionaires and CEOs.”

More than 30,000 workers and survivors of the 2001 attacks responded to the attack site while it burned for several weeks. Last month, 10,043 settled lawsuits claiming illness and injury from the alleged failure of the city and 140 contractors to adequately protect them. They will participate in a fund of about $625 million created by the U.S. government.

Thousands more already have chronic illnesses or are at risk of developing them over the next 10 years, Bloomberg has said, citing health officials. The money provided by the bill would have been deposited into a fund through 2020.

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Goldman in New York City Hall at William Selway in Washington at wselway@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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