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Dems outraged as GOP blocks 9/11 responders’ health bill

By Associated Press
Thursday, December 9, 2010 18:01 EDT
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May be end of the road for $7-billion aid package to heroes of 9/11

Senate Republicans on Thursday derailed a bill to aid people who got sick after exposure to dust from the World Trade Center’s collapse in the Sept. 11 attack.

Supporters were three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote on the bill that would have provided as much as $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors. The bill failed on a test vote, 57-42.

Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill and 41 Republicans opposed it. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, switched his vote to ‘no’ at the last moment, a parliamentary move that allows him to bring the measure up again for a vote.

The New York Times reports:

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….

In a statement, [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg chastised Senate Republicans for their “wrong-headed political strategy” and called on them to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote. “The attacks of 9/11 were attacks on America,” he said, “and we have a collective responsibility to care for the heroes — from all 50 states — who answered the call of duty, saved lives, and helped our nation recover.”

Backers of the legislation see this lame-duck session of Congress as possibly its last chance. The bill has passed the House.

Republican senators have promised not to consider any other bills until the Senate acts on funding the government and extending tax cuts.

The defeat was a huge blow to New York and New Jersey lawmakers who have long fought for the measure, arguing it’s morally wrong to not do more for the health needs of ailing 9/11 responders and survivors.

“We should not have to wait for tax deals to do what’s right,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a lead advocate of the bill.

Facing long odds, supporters will try to attach the 9/11 bill to the legislation that emerges from the tax deal. They’ll also press for another vote once the tax issue is settled.

Critics questioned whether the bill is affordable and does enough to ensure that only people with illnesses related to trade center dust get help.

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