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The continued blocking of the 9-11 Responders bill by key Republicans is an outrage

December 22, 2010

It annoys me, it angers me, it quite frankly gets me pissed off to the core when you watch since the terrible events of 9-11, one Republican after another using that day and the actions of heroes to politicize, fundraise and point score – and then when these heroes ask for support, (heroes who are ill, some dying, and all connected illnesses to the terrible toxic fumes they breathed in, as they worked day-to-day to recover bodies, searching for survivors) – when they ask for help the Republicans respond with a resounding “no” and a litany of excuses.

I am not the only person outraged – just do the search on google, or look on this site – my last post about this: Republicans turn their back on 911 responders, cited The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart who not only called the Republicans out on preferring to ensure tax cuts for the rich before looking at any other order of business in the so-called “lame duck” session of government at this time, but then went on to host a full half hour show, where he took off the Jon Stewart comedian hat and instead donned the Jon Stewart pissed off hat, and brought on four First Responders all of whom are suffering from terrible illnesses, at least one terminal, because of their heroic efforts on and after 9/11.

Stewart called the original filibuster by the Republicans:

an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11

Stewart also took on the media, especially the top networks: “None of the three broadcast networks have mentioned any of this on their evening newscasts for two and a half months.”

You can read the full transcript here at the Daily Kos.  It makes for sobering reading, and although Jon Stewart wins my “Patriot of the Year” award for his selfless observation of what is right and what is honest, it took a comedian, a satire show to yet again kick the butts of other networks, and to start to shame people into supporting what is a just bill.

Although most hosts on Fox when now talking about this bill skirt around just who is blocking the passage of H.R. 847, instead using “they” instead of naming, one man at Fox has proven to be a voice of reason.  Shep Smith, host of “Studio B”, has also been venting his anger – at first skirting and now publicly naming and shaming.

Last week, he began by calling out the lawmakers who were happy to sign tax cuts for the rich that “don;t need them” and the filibuster that was used against all other legislation until that got passed. And then he got angry at the same people who just can not vote yes on a bill to get much-needed medical relief and funds for first responders.  Speaking to Chris Wallace, also of Fox, Shep railed:

How do they sleep at night after this vote on Ground Zero first responders from 9/11? Are they going to get that done, or are we going to leave these American heroes out there to twist in the wind?

Although Smith and Wallace never named at that time, those working against the bill, over recent days this has changed with Shep.

Speaking on Monday 20 December, Shep Smith while speaking to Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to speak about the possibility of a “Christmas miracle” by the Senate to pass the Responders Bill, took issue with Senator Kyl (R) who expressed skepticism about the bill.  Shep also named and shamed Republicans whom he had invited on the show to discuss why they were obstructing and who had “declined” his invite:

“We called a lot of Republicans today who are in office at the moment, these are the ones who told us no: Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Enzi, Grassley, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Bacchus, Gregg and Inhofe. No response from: Bunning, Coburn, Ensign, Graham, Hatch and McCain. I’m not really surprised” (HuffPost)

Shep Smiths stance which goes further than most Fox News hosts have gone, was applauded by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow who said on her Tuesday show:

“All hail Shep Smith at Fox News…and I’m not kidding,” Maddow said. “Because Fox News can get call backs from Republican senators, Shep Smith making a hullabaloo on his show about the Republicans who are not supporting health care for 9/11 first responders means that those Republicans might feel compelled to explain publicly why they don’t support health care for 9/11 first responders.” (HuffPost)

However this sudden wake up call by the media has not meant all are supporting the bill.  Conservative columnist Mike Steryn said while filling in on the Sean Hannity program on Fox accused that the bill was “sentimental” and “doesn’t seem like a big deal.” (Media Matters)

Steryn was not alone in his disdain.  Guest Chris Morris went further and suggested the bill was a ruse for:

“inventing new things to spend money on.”

If you’ve just spewed your coffee over your keyboard over that one I am sorry, that was my reaction to – and yes he really said that.  Media Matters show the video of this exchange here.

Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly defended the GOP over their obstructionism and went on to accuse the Democrats of “demagoguing” the issue.

On Your World, guest host Brian Sullivan, standing in for Neil Cavuto, when interviewing former New York Mayor Rudy Gulliani, stumbled when he actually got right why the bill was stumbling, noting Gullianis struggles as he had “been fighting the Republicans, in large part”.  But he backtracked slightly to make sure not all responsibility was put on the Right by saying: “Democrats and Republicans. Are you gaining traction?”

As Media Matters points out:

Sigh… We’ll point it out as many times as we have to. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 has not passed Congress because, on December 9, Republicans voted unanimously against cloture, Democrats unanimously supported cloture, and the bill went down 57-42 (Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote to “no” for procedural reasons). It was Republican opposition, and Republican opposition alone, that scuttled the bill.

And it’s not just Fox that is tying itself up in knots – for the most part – over the bill.  Republican senators are coming up with a litany of excuses as to why the bill should not and can not be passed.

Take Tom Coburn for example. The Senator for Oklahoma said he would block the bill.  An aide speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday on Coburn’s behalf said Coburn would not allow the bill to go for vote before Christmas.

Coburn’s spokesman John Hart spoke to the Huffington Post and went further claiming that you couldn’t hold up a bill that had yet been brought forward.  He accused Harry Reid of not asking for unanimous consent to move the bill forward:

“[Y]ou can’t hold a bill that hasn’t been brought up. Reid hasn’t even tried to hotline the bill. This is the same game he’s been playing for years going back to the ‘Coburn Omnibus’ and before”

As the Huffington Post notes:

A Reid aide noted that the majority leader hasn’t asked for unanimous consent because he doesn’t have an agreement yet with Republicans that would allow it.

Senate Republicans have opposed the measure, also called the Zadroga bill, first over concerns that it would take precedence over a plan to extend the Bush tax cuts — a deal that has since been reached — and now due to issues with the cost-control measures and the $7.4 billion cost of the legislation. That money would go toward covering the medical bills of 9/11 emergency workers who have suffered from health complications following the inhalation of toxic chemicals at Ground Zero.

The original offset proposal would enact three small taxes and fees that are meant to target companies that rely on outsourcing jobs in order to provide goods and services. Coburn wants the offsets to come through spending cuts, and would prefer to see the legislation reach a floor vote through committee, rather than being fast-tracked, an action that has been taken to allow a vote on the bill to come before the end of the session.

Coburn does not want to use a tax system he wants to enact spending cuts.  He also says he wants the measure to go through committee rather than being fast tracked – but how can you fast track something that has been around for at least four years trying to be pushed through?  This is not a bill just plucked from thin air.

Coburn is joined by Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, Republican, who, according to Politico ‘said he had concerns with the measure and that it should instead move through the committee process’

“I’m not trying to fight it; I’m trying to get it right,” Enzi said. “There are 30 things that ought to be changed real quick in committee but very difficult on the floor. To finish a bill at this point of time, we’re not going to be able to amend it.”

However this seems to be nothing more than political play – a deliberate attempt to put up barriers to stop a bill that will help.  Yes $7.6 billion is a lot of money but so was the $800 billion that the extension of the Bush Cuts put on the already burdened finances of America.

But the tax cuts were goooood and the Responder’s Bill is baaaaad.

The Examiner accused the GOP of “playing politics with the 9/11 first responders bill”.  I have to agree.  They want to go home before Christmas, going so far as accusing Harry Reid of showing disrepect to the holiday.  They also say they want to get START through before they vote on the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.  These are in some ways stalling tactics – time is running out.  Democratic Senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand do say they have the votes to get the bill through but it only takes a few to create obstruction.  The bill has already cleared the House, although on a mostly partisan line of a 268-160 vote.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with other New York leading power brokers, challenged the GOP to do the right thing on Monday:

“Caring for the men and women who rushed to our defence on that dark day and in the days that followed is nothing less than a national duty,” (VancouverSun)
The bill has been languishing for far too long.  All the bill needs to pass is two Republicans. Today, Wednesday, will possibly, if START is not delayed further, see a vote on the bill, according to CNN.
Glen Klein, a New York police officer who claims to be suffering from lung disease, said:
“Fourteen of our guys died that day and we continue to see our friends die on a day-to-day basis,”
Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association goes further:

“Apparently we have some senators who would like to believe that when 343 fire officers and firefighters [and thousands of civilians and police officers] died on 9/11…that was the end of it….If that were true, we could move on.”

The continued obstruction of this bill is nothing short of shameful.  The GOP have forfeited their “right” to invoke 9/11 ever again.  They have let down heroes who were willing to run into a maelstrom for no other reason than they wanted to help.  Many of them are now dying, many are finding themselves cut off from their medical help.  As Jon Stewart in his interview with the defenders found out:

STEWART: So you’re going through all this, when you get sick, they consider it workman’s comp.  You can’t work anymore, so your health insurance suddenly is cut.  And the workman’s comp people fight you…

BOWMAN: It’s work-related.

This madness needs to end, the bill needs to be passed.

To find out more information I have put up a banner on my site to the right which links through to 911HealthNow.  Please click to find out more including information on how exactly the responders are being affected, questions and answers on the toxic waste inhaled and much more. Here is the link again:

Also please take the time to sign the petition my twitter friend @shainethomas is running. As he says on the petition:

We need to do the right thing. Serve and protect those that protected us.


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