The Wall Street Journal reports that a compromise deal has been cut on the proposal to establish a health-care fund for 9/11 first responders. The contentious issues of cost and perpetuation have apparently been hammered out, and the deal could mean a swift end to the lame-duck session of Congress:
Republican and Democratic senators struck a tentative deal to approve an aid bill for Ground Zero workers after New York lawmakers agreed to scale back its cost and accept other conditions, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Lawmakers for both parties met late into Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning to work on the details of the revised $4.3 billion package, a reduction from the original $7.2 billion legislation.
Instead of an unlimited entitlement, the GOP got a limitation of five years for the new fund. They also got a commission to study whether the treatment should come through the VA. The funding sources have not yet been announced, although that was one of the main sticking points for Tom Coburn.
Assuming that the agreement addresses that issue, the deal should allow the lame-duck session of Congress to end this week. Harry Reid already has cloture on the START ratification, and the vote is scheduled for either today or tomorrow after debate on a resolution that will accompany the treaty ratification, allowing Republicans to add amendments giving a sense of the Senate on issues such as missile defense and verification. The WSJ reports that the 9/11 responder bill may pass by acclamation this afternoon, which means that Congress could finally adjourn on Christmas Eve or even tomorrow.
Update: Coburn seems happy with the deal:
Sen. Tom Coburn is backing off a bill that would aid Sept. 11 responders, after threatening to torpedo it with a tactical delay.
“It’s going to be fine,” Coburn said. “We’re running traps on it. We got a good deal that takes care of the people that need to be taken care of and also takes care of our future, by not spending money we didn’t need to spend.”
When asked about the details, Coburn demurred. “I’ll let them put it out,” he said, referring to New York Senate Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer. “There’s a deal. The deal’s closed. And all we’re doing is running the traps and I’ve run a lot of the traps on my side and it looks like it’ll go by [unanimous consent] this afternoon.”
That sounds as if Coburn’s insistence on finding the funding without extra borrowing was satisfied.