Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What saved the 9/11 first responder bill?

Great news: a 9/11 health bill passed the Senate! But wait, what changed? Why did GOP opposition go away? Most reports on the new version of the 9/11 bill appear content with the low-hanging fruit and what the Republicans want you to see as their main objection. If you just skim the headlines, you might think it was John Stewart shaming Congressional Republicans combined with the new version lowering the cost estimate versus the original version.

Dig deeper. The big, hairy deal for the Republicans was the change in how we're paying for it ... and not in an entirely good way. The old bill was paid for by closing a tax loophole benefiting foreign corporations. As the Financial Times put it, "But the revenue offsets could prove to be significant irritants in economic ties with China and India." So the Chamber of Commerce, with significant dues coming from China and India, lobbied against the bill for that reason. As previously detailed, the GOP listens to the Chamber. Pressure from John Stewart or no, the Republicans weren't about to accept any bill closing that tax loophole and making the Chamber -- by far the top spending lobbying group -- less eager to campaign for the GOP. The new version instead sets up a fee on government procurement contracts with countries that haven't signed onto a WTO agreement and extends visa fees. That's less offensive to the Chamber, so it's OK with the Republicans.

I suppose the new way of paying for it is OK. At first glance, it at least sounds better than not implementing those fees. But imagine if the GOP weren't so influenced by the Chamber. Maybe in that alternate world we would have done both: closed the loophole and implemented the fees.

1 comment:

  1. "GOP, U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Beat Back Bill To Combat Outsourcing"