WATCH The Outrageous, Irrelevant Reasons The GOP Blocked Free Health Care For 9/11 Responders

July 30, 2010 2:49 pm ET — Alan Pyke

By now, most of the American political class should have seen Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) go ballistic on House Republicans for blocking a bill to provide free health care for 9/11 responders and cleanup workers who were exposed to toxins from Ground Zero. But the series of GOP objections that set him off is not getting quite so much attention.

Republicans offered a variety of objections to the bill, none of which were relevant to the basic goal: taking care of the people who rushed towards disaster that day in September. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), one of only 12 Republicans to vote for the bill, admitted that his party was really frustrated because Democrats denied Republicans an opportunity to tack on amendments about immigration. As King put it, "The reason H.R. 847 is not being brought up under regular order is that the majority party is petrified of having its members face a potential vote on illegal immigration."

But the suspension calendar is used for uncontroversial bills. And a law to fund health care for the heroes of September 11 should not be controversial. King's admission that Republicans wanted to load the bill with irrelevant amendments and force difficult votes on unrelated issues is striking.

The petty political rhetoric about entitlements offered by the other Republicans, though, is downright sickening.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) called the bill a "slush fund." Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) whined about the funding for the bill because first responders went to the WTC site "to save survivors, not to raise taxes." Brady further accused Democrats of "us[ing] 9/11 as an excuse to harm American jobs." Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) called the bill "yet another spending program" and an "entitlement."

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who was managing the minority's debate time, summed up the GOP's logic: the 9/11 responders don't deserve an "entitlement program," the whole thing should be "means tested" so that all those millionaire EMTs in New York who can afford their own care don't free ride on the program, and the bill is flawed because it "would reimburse hospitals in New York at 140% of Medicare."


It was bad enough when Republicans attached irrelevant riders to final votes on health insurance reform just to embarrass Democrats in an election year. To do so with something as important and uncontroversial as medical care for people who helped out at Ground Zero is just ugly.

No wonder Weiner was so angry.