House Republicans blocked a bill yesterday that would have allotted $7.4 billion to workers who fell ill from inhaling toxins and debris at Ground Zero yesterday. The bill was brought to the floor under a rule that requires a 2/3 majority vote, and the vote, predictably, fell pretty much along party lines, 255 for, 159 against. It should be noted that 12 Republicans voted for the measure. The reason the other House Republicans cited for their opposition? They weren’t allowed to offer the amendments (read: earmarks) for their constituents, including a ban on covering ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS with the funds.
Really, House Republicans? Illegal immigrants? That’s what you’re worried about? Seriously? How many illegal immigrants work in the New York City Police Department? How many illegal immigrants work for the New York City Fire Department? My guess is that if the number’s not zero, which it probably is, then it’s pretty close to it. Based off my experiences with the NYPD and the NYFD, they run a pretty tight ship.
And as for the argument that they need to offer amendments, again, this is a tactic that they routinely inflicted on Congressional Democrats during the years they held the majority. And, even, that’s not true. They have been allowed to offer amendments, but they’ve been rejected.
It’s been nine years since 9/11. This bill has languished in committees and thousands of people have been waiting for this help to arrive. There are thousands of people who have fallen ill as a result of their efforts to help New York City recover from this tragedy. When I first moved to New York, I worked in a law firm that represented the leaseholder of the World Trade Center, and when claims to his company would come, they would come through our law firm. I had the chance to read briefs that outlined the same illness that these heroes were experiencing. Shortness of breath, hardening of the lungs, certain cancers that surfaced, the list goes on and on.
And yet the GOP can’t find it in themselves to pass a bill that helps these people. They come to New York in 2004 for their convention. They wrap themselves in our flag. They wrap themselves in 9/11. They use our shared national tragedy for their own benefit, and yet, when the bill comes due, long overdue, in fact, they can’t find it in themselves to fund a program for heroes.
Congress is usually a pretty sedate place, but Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) wasn’t having any of it. He accurately and correctly blasted Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for offering some lame excuses as to why House GOP members voted against the bill. Procedural issues? Please. This is the most disingenuous group of people I’ve ever encountered. It’s not the procedure. It’s that they’re too cheap, and they don’t care.
Note to House GOP members who voted ‘NO’: with tactics like this, there’s no way in hell that you’re going to pick up the House. And, more importantly, voting NO on helping these heroes is shameful, and it’s the wrong thing to do.