Zadroga Bill Poised for Crucial Senate Vote

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The U.S. Senate has postponed a vote on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Bill until Thursday. It was originally expected to take place on Wednesday.

The bill would continue health care funding for tens of thousands of 9/11 emergency responders, construction laborers and downtown residents, workers and students. It would also potentially compensate people with post-9/11 health conditions and the survivors of those who have died.

Thursday's vote could merely be a test. The Democrats need 60 votes to open debate -- and 60 to close it. They say they have 59 votes and are looking for one last vote to seal the deal. They're hoping one or more of several centrist Republicans will cross over and vote with them. But observers are doubtful that will happen.

Even if debate begins, the bill could be subject to amendments before a final vote. That could be a matter of extra hours or, more likely, days.

Last week, 42 Republicans signed a pledge to filibuster all legislation until the Senate extends the Bush Era tax cuts and passes a spending bill for government operations. On Tuesday, President Obama announced a deal with Republicans to extend the tax cuts, but Democrats on Capitol Hill have not yet agreed to the deal, and liberals in the party strongly oppose it.

Republicans are concerned the bill would create a new entitlement program. The Democrats say they can fund it without raising taxes by closing a loophole on international companies that locate in offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes. Republicans, however, say that amounts to a new tax on companies that operate here and employ American workers.