You might think that a Democratic Congress would have no trouble passing a bill to aid rescue workers at Ground Zero who are suffering from related illnesses. Republicans certainly like to campaign on 9/11 heroism (see 2004 RNC), and Democrats are the party of health care.
But welcome to Washington, where large majorities supporting a bill are not enough to get it passed. As the New York Daily News reports, "It failed 255 to 159." Confused? Because 255 is more than 159, right?
Unfortunately for all those cops and firefighters, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was brought up under special rules. That expedites the process, but it requires a two-thirds majority to pass. All but 12 Republicans voted against the bill. Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) typical comments derided it as an "$8.4 billion slush fund paid by taxpayers that is open to abuse, fraud, and waste."
Interestingly, the vast majority of those same Republicans expressed no such reservations about approving the $59 billion in war spending just a couple of days earlier. The wounds of 9/11 apparently, are worth healing through interminable Middle Eastern military occupations, but not through aid to the victims or first responders. As far as being an unaffordable luxury, it's worth noting that congressional Republicans are currently advocating extending the Bush tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 per year, which would cost an estimated $676 billion. Republicans, who obsess over the legal system's crowding, inefficiency, and inequality when arguing for tort reform, also seem unconcerned that, as the Huffington Post's Sam Stein notes, the bill's defeat "likely means that the court system will have to settle compensation issues."
All this was too much for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who has recently emerged as a pugnacious liberal standard-bearer. He threw an angry fit on the floor of Congress, shouting down Republican colleagues who sought to interrupt him. "The gentleman will sit!" Weiner bellowed. Although verbose on the floor of the House today, his office ignored repeated requests for comment from NEWSWEEK as to why the bill was brought up under special rules, whether the bill will be resurrected in the future, and how Weiner might respond to Greg Sargent's argument that Democrats look ineffective, rather than inspiring, when they have hysterics over Republican obstructionism.