Congress turned thumbs down on the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act on Thursday night, raising doubts it will ever pass.
Most Republicans refused to back the measure, calling it a “slush fund,” and saying it was another example of Democratic overreach and an “insatiable” appetite for taxpayers’ money.
The bill would spend $3.2 billion on health care over the next 10 years for people sickened from their exposure to the toxic smoke and debris of the shattered World Trade Center. It would spend another $4.2 billion to compensate victims over that span, and make another $4.2 billion in compensation available for the next 11 years.
So, as Republicans see it, we can afford tax breaks for billionaires. But care for 9/11 victims, not so much.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), perhaps best known for his apology to BP after the company’s oil spill, “said the rest of the country should not bear the brunt of helping New Yorkers cope with the aftermath of the terror attacks.” [Update: To clarify, this is a paraphrase from the New York Daily News, not a direct quote of Barton.]
How could House Republicans kill the bill in a majority-rule chamber? As it turns out, Dems brought the measure to the floor as a “suspension bill,” because they didn’t want the GOP to try to gut the legislation with poison-pill amendments. But this strategy meant the bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The final vote was 255 to 159 — far short of the two-thirds threshold — with 155 Republicans in opposition, many of them saying they would consider supporting the bill, but only if the GOP were allowed to push unrelated amendments intended to embarrass the majority.
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y), whose constituents include many directly affected by this legislation, wasn’t especially impressed with the Republican argument: