Sometimes the often irresponsible behavior of the United States Senate rises to a new, more disgusting level that still manages to physically make me ill. Today, a bill that would provide help finding health care for the 9/11 rescue workers sickened as a result of their selfless actions failed in the Senate because it managed to only get 57 votes in favor (compared to 42 opposed). From the New York Times:
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. […]
In a vote largely along party lines, the Senate rejected a procedural move by Democrats to end debate on the 9/11 health bill and bring it to an up-or-down vote; 60 yes votes were needed, but the move received only 57, with 42 votes against.
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 the nation had a moral obligation to assist those who put their lives at risk during rescue operations at ground zero.
This is truly revolting action taken by Senate Republicans. Their decision to reward these heroes by dooming many of them to medical bankruptcy is made even more repulsive by the claim of concern over the $7.4 billion price tag while at the same time, their demand for a reduction in the estate tax will cost $68 billion. I frankly don’t know how they can live with themselves after taking this vote.
My anger is not just for the obstructionist Senate Republicans, but also falls on the spineless Senate Democrats.
In almost any other sane legislative chamber, a mere 57% majority would be enough to pass a bill. There is absolutely nothing stopping Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and 49 other Senate Democrats from taking 10 minutes to use a ruling from the chair to kill the filibuster and pass this bill. Senate Democrats–if they really wanted to–could pass this bill right now, regardless of how Republicans vote. Reid could take to the floor and declare “I will not allow Senate Republicans to crucify these American heroes on this cross of broken Senate procedure.”
Once again, Senate Democrats actually had the choice of protecting the ridiculous, broken rules of their chamber, or helping people in serious need. Sadly, like with every other fight this year, they showed what they most care about is the silly rules of their clubhouse.