Last night, the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart skewered Republicans for killing deficit neutral legislation to provide health care to the 9/11 first responders and emergency workers who suffered illnesses from working at Ground Zero. He also mocked the celebrity-obsessed media that has completely ignored the story. Republicans, like Sen. John Thune (R-SD), filibustered the bill because they said tax cuts for the richest 2 percent were a higher priority for Congress. While Republicans quietly snuffed out efforts to compensate 9/11 heroes, they were aided by a quiet lobbying campaign by the powerful lobbying front — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber fought to help kill the 9/11 compensation bill because it was funded by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations doing business in the United States.
The “U.S.” part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a misnomer. As ThinkProgress reported, the Chamber represents dozens of foreign businesses in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Bahrain, India, Brazil, and other countries. An investigation of the Chamber turned up recent fundraising documents from the Chamber soliciting foreign contributions to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6), the tax entity the Chamber used to run nasty campaign ads against Democrats earlier this year.
In September, the Chamber sent a letter officially opposing the 9/11 first responders bill, called the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.” The Chamber warned that ending the tax loophole would “damage U.S. relationships with major trading partners” and “aggravate already unsettled financial markets.” A lobbying disclosure filed with the Senate confirms the Chamber contacted lawmakers to help kill the bill.
In typical fashion, the Chamber has not revealed which of its foreign members had asked them to kill the 9/11 bill. As the Chamber CEO explained to the Washington Monthly’s James Verini, the entire purpose of the Chamber is to provide “deniability” to corporations that want to affect the outcomes of elections or of public policy. In 2009, the Chamber secretly used a $86 million donation from the health insurance industry to fight health reform. At the time, the Chamber lied and claimed to the public that they were simply acting on behalf of the entire “business community.”
Republicans are continuing to protest any renewed attempts to pass the 9/11 first responders bill because of the tax issue raised by the Chamber. Yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) sent out a statement that mirrored the Chamber’s opposition to ending the foreign corporate tax loophole.