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Defeat of 9/11 health bill sparks acrimony
By Julian Pecquet – 07/30/10 11:49 AM ET

Democrats and Republicans in the House are blaming each other for the defeat Thursday evening of a bill that would have provided healthcare coverage to first responders of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City.

Democrats blasted the GOP for its almost unanimous opposition to the bill, which only 12 Republicans supported. But the 255-159 vote in favor of the legislation would have been enough to carry the day, had the Democratic leadership not brought it up under suspension rules, which prohibit amendements and dictate a two-thirds majority for passage.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the vote “a disappointment” that “should not be a setback.”

“Sadly, the majority of House Republicans voted against this bill, even though its [$7.4 billion] costs were fully paid for as required under the PAYGO rules by closing a tax loophole for foreign firms that operate in the United States,” Trumka said in a statement. “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. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) also blamed the GOP.

“It is outrageous that the opposition chose to protect foreign companies’ tax shelters rather than support those who protected us,” he said. “This is a shameful night in Congress — one that I will never forget.”

Others blamed the Democratic leadership.

Before the vote even took place, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) called the high threshold for passage of the bill an “outrage.”

“They will not get that,” he said at a press conference Thursday morning in New York. “And they know that. So this is a way to avoid having to make a tough decision.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a lead co-sponsor of the bill, on Tuesday told The New York Daily News that the Democratic leadership’s actions were “morally disgraceful.”

“The Democrats are guilty of moral cowardice and a failure of leadership,” King told the Daily News. “They put this up on the suspension calendar knowing it’s not going to get a two-thirds vote … It’s really morally disgraceful … They are letting cops and firefighters die because their members don’t have the guts to take a vote.”

After the vote, the three lead sponsors — King and New York Democrats Carolyn Malloney and Jerrold Nadler — issued a more positive joint statement expressing hope that a simple majority vote is still possible.

“Today’s vote showed that we have the support we need to pass the Zadroga Act, and we look forward to passing the bill with a simple majority when Congress returns from its August recess,” they said. “We thank our colleagues in the New York delegation for their dedication to those who were harmed by the terrorist attacks on our nation.”

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