The Keane Edge by Brendan Patrick Keane
9/11 responders given shaft by politicians in the House
Posted on Friday, July 30, 2010 at 03:21 PM
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the fighting on the Hill a "disgraceful proceeding."
He was referring to the shouting match on a Bill that was supposed to grant 9/11 responders sickened by poisonous air at Ground Zero a promised $7.4 billion in aid, finally after all these years. Insults were slung between Congressman Weiner and Congressman King who represent constituencies with lots of fireman, cops and other rescue workers. The Bill failed to win the 255-159 needed for a two-thirds majority.
That "2/3rds" requirement is the crux of the question: why did the Bill fail? Are Democrats or Republicans to blame?
The disgrace belongs, as usual, to both Republicans and Democrats, but not to Peter King specifically. Weiner's theatrics so wrongly, however, would have the casual observer believe King is to blame.
Congressman Weiner is, on behalf of the Democratic leadership, playing games with public perception about what happened on the Bill's vote. It failed, but how could it fail when the Democrats rule the House? Weiner had to explain (or defend) that reality in sound-bite summation. His blustering is all smoke and mirrors.
To make excuses, Congressman Weiner's speech dismisses the very real use of procedure to kill the bill. The viral video clip of him be-smirkedly roaring and screaming his disgust that the other side had killed the Bill is bad enough, but most outrageously, he is shouting at Peter King.
Republican Peter King has worked very hard with Democrat Caroline Maloney to get this bill to the House. The Democratic leadership killed the bill by failing to put it to the floor and requiring a 2/3rds vote instead. Blaming King somehow as though he was responsible for the Bill's death when he worked so hard to pass it despite his party's backlash, is insulting, and Weiner should not be heroized for doing so.
The Republicans tried to kill it with a majority from their party voting no. King led twelve fellow Republicans, however, to break ranks and join what should have been a non-partisan issue easily passed in a normal vote.
The Democratic leadership, and Congressman Weiner, did away with the normal vote and called for a special proceeding which required a lot more yes votes than the more usual majority-wins procedure.
For a number of insider reasons, the Democratic leadership did not want a floor vote, and so they used their power to call for what is called a "2/3rds vote."
They used their power to call a riskier vote, instead of using their power to just put the Bill to normal vote and have it safely pass through into Law.
Why the riskier vote? The Democratic leadership that chose this "procedural gimmick," as King called it, chose it to avoid negotiations on the floor with amendments and other undesirables.
To cover-up this base self-serving politic maneuver that killed the Bill, Weiner made a blustering speech that became a viral video screaming his outrage, so that we might join him in outrage, when in fact he himself created the outrage.
Disgraceful is right.
Observers will remember that 9/11 responders were the heroes that gave America its courage and dignity in the wake of the attack on New York. Unfortunately for them, the Environmental Protection Agency, under Christine Whitman's leadership, failed to accurately portray the dangers to people in downtown Manhattan. This Bill---The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847)--was supposed to make that wrong right.
Without the knowledge they needed, firemen and other rescuers took the government at its word, and put themselves in a toxic environment. Many have died from respiratory diseases, suffer sickness today or are grossly uncomfortable.
The Bill was their hope at recognition and compensation. It was defeated by the lowest kind of politics in Washington.