Bill to aid 9/11 responders fails in the House

July 30, 2010 3:00:16 PM PDT
A heated debate turned to fierce disappointment on Capitol Hill, as the bill to treat sick first responders from 9/11 went down to defeat Thursday night in the House of Representatives. Advocates now wonder if the bill can ever be saved.

The debate underscored the deep divide between members of Congress from the New York Metropolitan area and those from the rest of the country. Many of them say that New York first responders already get too much.

"This legislation, as written, creates a huge $8.4 billion slush fund paid by taxpayers is open to abuse, fraud and waste," one lawmaker argued.

The bill failed to get the two-thirds majority it needed after Democrats suspended the rules to prevent amendments on abortion and illegal immigration. The minutes leading up to the vote saw a vicious debate between New York Congressmen from each party.

"You vote yes if you believe yes," Congressman Anthony Weiner said. "You vote in favor of something if you believe it's the right thing. If you believe it's the wrong thing, you vote no. We are following a procedure."

"You could pass this bill if you wanted to, you are in control," Congressman Peter King said. "You have the power, you have the responsibility. This bill should be more important than a campaign talking point."

There will be another attempt to pass the bill at the end of August. But some other states say the 9/11 injured don't deserve special help.

"When firefighters all across this country enter burning buildings, when rescue workers clean up toxic spills, people are injured, people are killed all the time," Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte said. "We do not have compensation funds for them."

The bill has not yet been taken up in the Senate, and there is concern that if Republicans make great gains in the November elections, the bill will never be considered in the Senate.

The vote received 255 votes in favor of the bill, and 159 against. The bill needed 286 votes to pass.