Senate Republicans block vote on 9/11 health bill

SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK VOTE ON 9/11 HEALTH BILL…. In late September, the House approved a bill that should have been one of the year’s most obvious no-brainers. It’s called the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and it would pay health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. The legislation was fully paid for, financed by closing a tax loophole for American companies that try to hide their headquarters at P.O. boxes in the Caymans.

House Republicans trashed the bill, calling the health care money a “slush fund.” The chamber passed it anyway, overcoming the opposition of more than 90% of the House GOP.

Today, it was the Senate’s turn. And you know what that means.

Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and residents of New York City who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero.

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

Here’s the roll call. Technically, it was 57 to 42 in Dems’ favor — three votes shy of overcoming a Republican filibuster — but it was really 58 to 41. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch his vote to opposition for procedural reasons.

The politics of this really are astounding. For all of the Republicans’ professed concern for Ground Zero and reverence for the attacks of 9/11, when it comes time to help thousands of 9/11 heroes who need medical care, Republicans not only oppose the bill, they’re so offended by it that they won’t even let the Senate give it an up-or-down vote.

We’re talking about a Senate Republican caucus that, without exception, will fight tooth and nail for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but which refuses to let the Senate vote on a bill covering health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers.

And this is the party Americans rewarded on Election Day.

At this point, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act isn’t completely dead. If it fails to pass in this Congress, Republicans have already indicated it stands no chance in the next Congress. There is, however, still some talk about trying to insert the provisions into the tax policy agreement before it’s voted on in the Senate.