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Rep. Weiner blasts GOP foes of 9/11 workers' health fund

by Brett Michael Dykes
July 30, 2010

New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner is plainly fired up and ready to go. In a losing battle to secure passage of a bill to fund health care and compensation for ill 9/11 rescue workers, he unleashed a tirade against what he called unprincipled GOP opponents of the measure. Watch his outburst, which concluded in him smashing down the House rostrum microphone:

The House voted down the bill, which would have provided $3.2 billion over the next 10 years to fund free health care for 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who have fallen ill from toxic smoke and debris they breathed at the World Trade Center site. The bill would have also provided $4.2 billion in compensation over that same span. The legislation proposed to pay for the benefits by closing a tax loophole on foreign subsidiaries that do business in the United States.


The House Democratic leadership employed an arcane procedural maneuver to suspend the rules before consideration of the bill (titled the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act). Democrats reportedly used the gambit to prevent House Republicans from swamping the otherwise popular measure with what Democrats called excessively partisan amendments. But in order for the bill to pass in this form, it needed a two-thirds majority. The final tally was 255 for it (12 of them Republicans), and 159 against (four of them Democrats).

[Photos: Ground Zero construction continues]

Some GOP opponents painted it as a "slush fund" for New York that the rest of America would be forced to fund through tax increases. In response to the measure's defeat, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted both sides of the aisle.

"It was wrong for the overwhelming majority of Republicans to vote against the bill, and it was wrong for Democrats to bring the bill to the floor under rules that made passage so much more difficult," he said.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent concurred, citing Democratic incompetence and Republican political chicanery as the principal reasons for the defeat. Sargent wrote that the Republicans are trying to "render government ineffective in order to deny Dems victories, create a sense that government is broken and has failed to deliver, stoke anti-incumbent fervor, and ensure that Dems bear the brunt of blame for government dysfunction." He adds, "Dems need to stop responding superficially to Republican opposition, and tailor their response to the GOP's underlying strategy."

Meanwhile, Weiner is still talking, going on Fox News Friday morning to blast his Republican colleagues in a debate with GOP Rep. Peter King (a sponsor of the bill, who harshly criticized Democrats' decision to go for a two-thirds majority).

"You know, this is not something that got rushed through, this is nine years in the making," Weiner said. "This is doing the right thing, and we should have passed this bill overwhelmingly without any controversy at all. But unfortunately, the party of 'no' hit a new low last night."

The bill's defeat now means that ill 9/11 rescue and recovery workers and their families will have to seek recourse through the U.S. court system for their medical expenses.

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