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Despite New Funding Offsets, US Chamber Of Commerce Still Opposing 9/11 First Responders Bill

Last week, ThinkProgress reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had quietly lobbied to help Republicans kill the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010,” a bill to compensate the first responders and emergency workers who suffered illnesses from working at Ground Zero.

The Chamber — a powerful trade association representing the health insurance industry, ExxonMobil, as well as dozens of foreign corporations — opposed the bill because it paid for health care benefits by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations with business interests in the United States. The Chamber also demanded that Congress should stop deliberating over benefits for 9/11 heroes, and instead focus on extending “all of the expiring 2001 and 2003″ tax cuts.

Disclosures reveal that the Chamber used part of its multi-million lobbying budget on defeating the bill because of its funding provision. The Republican caucus, which was unified in opposition to the legislation, cited both the priority of the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent and the Chamber’s concerns about closing the tax loophole.

Over the weekend, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tried to revive the bill by changing the way the compensation fund would be paid for. Instead of ending the foreign corporate tax loophole, Gillibrand proposed a new funding mechanism, including a 2 percent excise fee on certain foreign companies that receive U.S. government contracts. However, the Chamber still believes the bill’s offsets are unacceptable.

Asked for comment by ThinkProgress, Chamber spokesperson Tita Freeman told us that the Chamber takes no position on compensating 9/11 first responders, but absolutely opposes Gillibrand’s new funding mechanism because the Chamber believes it to be “harmful to the business community and the economy.”

- Lee Fang


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