House Republicans last night blocked a bill that would provide long-term medical care and monitoring for the nearly 60,000 Sept. 11 rescue and recovery workers and community members whose health is at serious risk from their exposure to the contaminated and toxic rubble at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the vote a deep disappointment and said:
Helping the thousands of 9/11 responders and others who are now sick as a result of their exposures at the World Trade Center should not be a partisan issue. But sadly, the majority of House Republicans voted against this bill.
The 255-159 vote in favor of the bill included 12 Republicans. But because the bill was on what is known as the suspension calendar used for non-controversial bills, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. What’s controversial about helping 9/11 heroes who faced toxic mix of chemicals, jet fuel, asbestos, lead, glass fragments and other debris?
Trumka noted that the cost of the bill was paid for by closing tax loopholes for foreign companies operating in the United States.
It appears that some Republicans and business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, are more concerned with protecting the interests of the foreign based companies who try to avoid paying taxes than helping those who answered the nation’s call on 9/11.
Rep. Michael E. McMahon (D-N.Y.) said the Republican arguments against the bill are “ridiculous and baseless.”
It is utterly unconscionable to me that my Republican colleagues decided to put their own petty, partisan agenda ahead of the solemn moral obligation to help the countless volunteers who were there for us in our nation’s greatest hour of need. Shame on them.
Rep. Carol Maloney (D-N.Y), one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said she expects the House to take up the 9/11 medical aid bill when it returns from its August recess under normal rules that require just a simple majority for passage.
Nine long years after the attacks, the living victims of 9/11 are still suffering. We must pass this bill. It is the least we can do as a grateful nation.