Republicans Block 9/11 Health Bill

Republicans have blocked a bill that would have helped rescue workers who became sick helping others at Ground Zero.

The GOP has won a bizarre fight:

Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and others who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at the site of the World Trade Center attack in 2001.

The 9/11 health bill, a version of which was approved by the House of Representatives in September, was among several initiatives that Senate Democrats had hoped to approve before the close of the 111th Congress. Supporters believe this was their last real opportunity to have the bill passed.

Given the exalted status of the 9/11 first responders, this is akin to voting against National Puppy Day or canceling Christmas.   Why would Republicans do such a thing?

Republicans have been raising concerns about how to pay for the $7.4 billion measure, while Democrats, led by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, have argued that there was a moral obligation to assist those who put their lives at risk during rescue and cleanup operations at ground zero.

The bill is formally known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named after a New York police detective who participated in the rescue efforts at ground zero. He later developed breathing complications that were common to first responders at the site, and he died in January 2006. The cause of his death became a source of debate after the city’s medical examiner concluded that it was not directly related to the attacks.

But, given the Republicans have just forced President Obama into signing a massive giveaway package, why quibble over a comparative pittance for such a popular constituency?  It’s politically stupid.  Especially for Republicans, who have so sanctified Ground Zero that we have to have national debates over local construction permits for anything within blocks of it.

Now, I happen to think that the costs for city workers whose health was damaged in the line of duty ought to be the responsibility of the city rather than federal taxpayers.  And I opposed the massive compensation package we paid to the families who were the victims of the attacks, reasoning that they’re no more deserving of federal money than other murder victims.  But, of course, I’m a heartless bastard.  (See “Cognitive Bias and the Pundit Class.”)  And I’m not running for anything.

And, given that Republican leaders aren’t making a remotely principled argument in this case, I can’t figure out what they’re thinking.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. IanY77 says:

    “But, given the Republicans have just forced President Obama into signing a massive giveaway package, why quibble over a comparative pittance for such a popular constituency? It’s politically stupid.
    ……
    And, given that Republican leaders aren’t making a remotely principled argument in this case, I can’t figure out what they’re thinking.”

    They’re thinking that they won’t have to pay any price for this. And they’re right. As of this morning, I look at Memeorandum, and the only people attacking the Republicans are liberal bloggers and the New York Times. All easily dismissable on the right. It’s obviously not on Drudge. How many Democrats have gone screaming to the media the way Republicans would if the party’s votes were reversed? I haven’t seen one. Where are the blaring press releases from Dem senatorial offices? Nowhere to be found. Is MSNBC and CNN in high dudgeon, like Fox would be if the votes were reversed? Nope. Where’s Obama using his position as the most powerful man on Earth, a man who could commandeer any editorial page in America (outside of maybe NewsMax), to spotlight this abomination? Nothing yet.

    Republicans are pros at this, Democrats are maybe, maybe high school intramural. I know a lot of Republicans hate Democrats, but you couldn’t ask for a better enemy. I’d call them a synonym for felines, but they’d probably take that as a compliment.




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  2. I believe the republican complaint is that it doesn’t explicitly exclude any undocumented immigrants who might be amoung said first responders.




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  3. Justin Bowen says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the problem isn’t that they voted against health care for 9/11 responders, but rather that they’re voting in favor of most of everything else that comes out of Congress.




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  4. Tano says:

    “I happen to think that the costs for city workers whose health was damaged in the line of duty ought to be the responsibility of the city rather than federal taxpayers.”

    Why on earth would you think that? The expenses are qute extraordinary, and are the result of an attack against the United States. It was not an attack against New York City, per se. We all, as a nation, embraced the notion that all of us, our country, was attacked. We responded as a country. Why single out this one part of the event and demand that only the citizens of NYC be responsible for resolving it?




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  5. legion says:

    So, the Republican philosophy is that any new spending has to be offset by cuts, but the extension of the Bush tax cuts _doesn’t_. I see what you did there…




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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Tano: That these deaths and illnesses were part of a terrorist attack on the country doesn’t transform the area into a federal compound and the people employees of the federal government.

    It’s the responsibility of local governments to provide health insurance for its employees. Either the costs should be borne by the insurance company or, if self-insured, the city.

    Similarly, the airlines should have been responsible for their poor security procedures and suffered the financial damages, not the taxpayer.

    And office workers murdered in their buildings should have had life insurance. They’re fundamentally no different from any other crime victims.




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  7. anjin-san says:

    Gotta love the GOP. Keeping taxes low for billionaires is quite a bit more important that taking care of sick 9.11 responders. At least these cats are clear on who they work for…




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  8. mantis says:

    I believe the republican complaint is that it doesn’t explicitly exclude any undocumented immigrants who might be amoung said first responders.

    Any Republicans who object to the bill on those grounds are truly evil scum, and really ought to drown themselves in a bathtub. Soon.




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  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    You know, when it comes to veteran’s medical care, or the welfare of first responders who rush headlong into burning buildings to save other Americans, DEFICIT AND DEBT BE DAMNED, YOU PAY FOR THE F-ING MEDICAL CARE!




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  10. Justin Bowen says:

    A) The attacks of 9/11 weren’t attacks against the United States; they were retaliatory attacks against the belligerent federal government of the United States. The targets were symbols of the United States’ military, economic, and political might that, together, is being wielded by the federal government to intervene in the affairs of people all around the world, often times leading to very negative consequences. None of them were nearly as critical in terms of their everyday impact on the daily lives of the average American as they were on the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people elsewhere in the world (people conveniently like to forget which major financial institutions were housed in the World Trade Center). The attacks themselves were carried out by individuals not acting on behalf of any government and were simply acts of piracy and murder that had consequences that made for great news coverage, gave politicians an easy excuse to grab more power, and made millions of people sad who, in all reality, had little or no connection to the actual victims outside of the value of their investments.

    B) The first responders were, for the most part, local and state government and private sector employees. Let those whom they worked for pay for their care (by the same token, people living in flood zones, in tornado alley, in known hurricane paths, in earthquake-prone areas, in fire-prone areas, beneath volcanoes, in blizzard-prone areas, and anywhere else where certain events are expected to happen should also be expected to foot the bill when the expected, however likely or unlikely, DOES happen). People who live in California, Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Maine, and every other state should not be forced to pay for local problems in other states.




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  11. An Interested Party says:

    “People who live in California, Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Maine, and every other state should not be forced to pay for local problems in other states.”

    Just as people in blue states shouldn’t have to see their tax dollars disproportionally sent to people in red states, but there we are…




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  12. Corey Manuel says:

    I am saddened, frustrated and angry to know that there are senators out there who care more about the rich getting just that much richer, than they do about the health and well being of every first responder hero of 9-11.
    There is a term for these people. I don’t like using it because I think 99% of the time it is used, it is just over-the-top rhetoric used to inflame people’s fear and hate. But in this case I think it is appropriate. These senators are un-American.
    And what frustrates me even more, is that there are poor and lower- and upper middle-class people who will vote them back into office in 2012, 2014 etc. because for some reason, they believe these senators have their best interests at heart.

    @Justin Bowen. I find it interesting that your argument:
    “…people living in flood zones, in tornado alley, in known hurricane paths, in earthquake-prone areas, in fire-prone areas, beneath volcanoes, in blizzard-prone areas, and anywhere else where certain events are expected to happen should also be expected to foot the bill…”
    lists all natural disasters, not terrorist attacks. I seriously doubt that before 9-11, people who were thinking of moving to New York City were saying, “It’s a wonderful city, but what about all the terrorist attacks?” The 9-11 hijackers were not a flood, or hurricane, or earthquake. They were a group of terrorists whose goal was to terrorize ALL Americans.

    I find it interesting that when the attacks occurred, the battle cry was “We are all Americans! We must stand united!” But now that the issue is money, the battle cry is “It happened to you, not me! Your on your own!” It’s a convenient feat of mental gymnastics to say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you. But f*** you if you think you’re getting any of my money!” and believe that it’s perfectly moral and rational thinking.




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  13. An Interested Party says:

    “I find it interesting that when the attacks occurred, the battle cry was ‘We are all Americans! We must stand united!’ But now that the issue is money, the battle cry is ‘It happened to you, not me! Your on your own!’ It’s a convenient feat of mental gymnastics to say, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you. But f*** you if you think you’re getting any of my money!’ and believe that it’s perfectly moral and rational thinking.”

    Welcome to American in 2010…I guess something like this sends a thrill up the leg of many a libertarian…




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