An Update on the 111th Congress
December 23, 2010 – The 111th Congress adjourned today, and as with every legislative session, there is good news and bad news for fire fighters.
The defeat of the Public Employer-Employee Cooperation Act represents a significant setback.
“Passage of our national collective bargaining bill was our top priority, and it is impossible to mask my frustration over the outcome,” General President Harold Schaitberger says.
When asked at a press conference today if he had any disappointments about the 111th Congress, President Obama said he was disappointed that Congress didn’t pass the Public Employer-Employee Cooperation Act.
The 111th Congress began with great expectations. For the first time in a generation both the House and Senate were controlled by Democrats, and a pro-labor, Democratic president was in the White House. Despite the potential for legislative success, partisan rancor and a series of mishaps turned the 111th Congress into an abyss in which important legislation, including the IAFF’s collective bargaining bill, failed to pass.
The House of Representatives passed the collective bargaining bill on two separate occasions this year. But the Senate was brought to a standstill by a record 87 filibusters. The GOP Minority was enormously successful in thwarting legislation they opposed and the Democratic Majority was unable to break the logjam.
In spite of having six GOP Senate co-sponsors for the collective bargaining bill, Republican leadership made it clear that they would oppose the legislation with every parliamentary tool and delaying tactic they could employ. Click here to read more about the collective bargaining bill in Congress.
Despite the defeat of the collective bargaining bill, there was a significant victory in the 111th Congress.
Congress today passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, H.R. 847. Passage of the Zadroga Act was a profound achievement by Congress in the final hours of the 111th session.
“This is a major legislative victory for the IAFF, the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, Local 94 and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Local 854. We are pleased that Congress passed this life-saving measure before they adjourned,” Schaitberger says.
Passage was long overdue, but the long-awaited approval from Congress will ensure that there is funding for existing medical monitoring and treatment programs for people at the World Trade Center or involved with the cleanup at Ground Zero who have suffered illnesses from the toxic dust and debris following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
“It’s particularly fitting and deeply gratifying that the last act of Congress before they adjourned was to pass the Zadroga Act,” Schaitberger says.
Click here to read more about the passage of the Zadroga Act here.
Despite that legislative defeat, there is significant financial help on the way. The first round of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants [SAFER] for Fiscal 2010 are expected to be issued before the end of the year. All of the first-round grants will go to departments that will rehire fire fighters who have been laid off. The first round is expected to include 50 grants.
“Fire departments will receive more than $400 million in fiscal 2010, and this funding couldn’t come at a better time. For so many of our locals, this is the best Christmas present we could hope for,” Schaitberger says.