The GOP’s Callous Cowardice

By now most of the politically-inclined citizens of our nation with internet access have seen Rep. Anthony Weiner’s tirade on the floor of the House last week. It was an impressive display of apoplectic anger and represents the most honest assessment of the House Republican caucus that anyone has given in years. In short, the gentleman from New York’s 9th district called House Republicans ‘cowards who refuse to vote their conscience.’ Anthony Weiner is absolutely correct.

The conservative mainstream media disagrees, however, and has seen fit to describe this episode as the reason why Americans despise the whole of Congress. The take of much of the media, both inside and outside of the beltway, is that Democrats are the reason the bill failed because they used a procedure that required a 2/3 majority instead of the normal simple majority. In the twisted political gymnastics of our time, the Republican claim (supported by the mainstream media as all their claims are) is that their “no” votes don’t count because the Democrats asked for too many “yes” votes.

This bill is not a part of the President’s domestic agenda. This bill is not a part of Speaker Pelosi’s sinister plot to control the world (or whatever it is that conservatives believe these days). The  James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 simply provides the funds for extended care for the first responders of 9/11. The heroes who ran towards the cataclysm when others ran away need our help now. They are suffering from delayed and chronic effects from the toxic dust created by the fall of the Twin Towers. It is a simple, straightforward, non-partisan piece of legislation that should have been debated over total cost and little else. So what happened?

The Republicans decided the bill gave them an opportunity for more election year shenanigans. They attached a poison pill amendment to the legislation; a clause that would stipulate that no funds be given to first responders who were found to be illegal aliens. That there were any illegal aliens employed by New York City’s emergency services at all is beyond the point. That conservatives would feel that illegal aliens who rushed to support Americans in their darkest hour need not be supported themselves is also beyond the point.

The Republicans were setting the Democrats up using a tried and true legislative tactic (both parties use it). If the Democrats voted for the bill, they would be voting against benefits for illegal aliens, a move the Republicans planned to use against their opponents with Hispanic voters in November. If Democrats chose to vote against the bill, the Republicans could claim an outright victory, as their only interest in this Congress is to say no to everything.

The Democrats decided to put an end to the amendments, pure and simple. They wanted a vote, shockingly enough, on the bill they were considering, and not some endless stream of GOP garbage. The Democrats wanted to do the people’s business, so they used a procedural rule to bring an end to the amendment process by requiring the super-majority for passage. And why shouldn’t they? You either believe the bill is important or you don’t. You either choose to support the heroes of 9/11 by spending the money, or you hide behind the deficit…again. This is the summary of the bill the Republicans decided wasn’t worth their votes.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009 – Amends the Public Health Service Act to establish within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health the World Trade Center Health Program (WTC program) to provide: (1) medical monitoring and treatment benefits to eligible emergency responders and recovery and cleanup workers who responded to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001; and (2) initial health evaluation, monitoring, and treatment benefits to residents and other building occupants and area workers who were directly impacted and adversely affected by such attacks. Requires the WTC program administrator to: (1) implement a quality assurance program; (2) establish the WTC Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee; (3) establish the WTC Responders Steering Committee and the WTC Community Program Steering Committee; (4) provide for education and outreach on services under the WTC program; (5) provide for the uniform collection of data related to WTC-related health conditions; (6) conduct research on physical and mental health conditions that may be related to the September 11 terrorist attacks; and (7) extend and expand arrangements with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide for the World Trade Center Health Registry. Authorizes the administrator to make grants to the Department to address mental health needs relating to the terrorist attacks.

Amends the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act to: (1) make individuals eligible for compensation under the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 for harm as a result of debris removal; and (2) extend the deadline for making a claim for compensation.

Not exactly the stuff of big government tyranny is it? A total of 155 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against this measure for the 9/11 heroes. The fact that a 2/3 majority was required did not force those 159 into “no” votes. Nor did it force the 11 Republicans and 7 Democrats who didn’t make the vote into their positions. The 159 chose to vote no; they did it of their own volition, and the gentleman from New York’s 9th is exactly correct. They are all cowards for hiding behind procedure.

I think, however, that the greater folly in this matter is the false equivalency that the conservative mainstream media now seeks with every story. The ridiculous notion that there is always two sides has once again misled the American people. Our nation needs the unequivocal and undiluted knowledge that partisan politics was more important to House Republicans than the heroes of 9/11. There was no thought of race, nationality, religion, or political procedure in the decisions of the first responders to run towards an apocalypse. Unfortunately, the GOP has made a policy of stopping to consider all of those parameters of late. America should be well used to that paradigm by now.

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3 Responses to “The GOP’s Callous Cowardice”

  • Michael Chase says:

    Thank you both for your comments. Stephen, you make an interesting point about brinkmanship, but allow me to point something out. This was not done in the Senate, and there is no filibuster in the House. The Democrats in the House moved for a straight debate on the bill by closing off further amendments through the use of the two-thirds rule. They asked for the debate, and the Republicans answered with no votes…its just that simple.

    One more point; the filibuster is not a straw man…it is very real. What makes things more difficult is that the precursor to the filibuster is more effective, and there is simply no way in the Senate rules to have a straight debate, no matter how much Majority Leader Reid wants one. The “debate” on a bill in the Senate continues until a cloture motion passes…this motion requires 60 votes. Since the Democrats have never had 60 (unless we still believe Lieberman is in any way a Democrat), there has had to be many concessions given to get cloture passed and move on to the simple majority rules that have been the tradition in our nation.

  • stephen says:

    I agree with the author about the cowardice of the . Republican strategy to only vote against everything the Democrats propose in the Senate. However, let us be fair, and acknowledge that the Democrats refuse to ever risk a filibuster and instead quietly fold everytime the GOP raises the horrible straw man of potential filibuster. I for one would like to see a real debate or a filibuster,whichever comes first, rather than the stupid brinksmanship now on display.

  • Jesse Knight says:

    Sir, you again you miss the point. Look obviously the heroes of 9/11 deserve extended healthcare support. Clearly we can all agree on that. But I’ll be DAMNED (literally, the good Lord above will damn me if I help any, gasp, illegal aliens) if an illegal will get one damn penny of MY American money. Not from me, sir. I couldn’t care less if these illegals ran into a burning, collapsing building to pull American citizens from the hellish flames. It…doesn’t…matter! They’re ILLEGAL. They’re morally bankrupt. (shhhh, they’re also brown). Anyway, it’s the Democrats’ fault. Our seven yes votes would’ve been more than enough if the Democrats had simply asked for a majority vote. No, they had to flex their muscle and require that we all do the right thing. Did you see that the South Carolina GOP censured Lindsey Graham today for voting with the Democrats too often? Well that’s what the Democrats were trying to do. They were trying to make us, gasp, vote YES along with them. Imagine that? Seriously, think about that. If we voted yes to a Democrat sponsored bill or one that Democrats support then our base would no longer support us. Rush, Beck and their cronies would blame us for supporting the liberal agenda. We can’t risk that. Under NO circumstances will we risk being aligned with the Democrats. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. We will NOT vote yes if a majority of Democrats vote yes at the same time. How can we call ourselves the conscientious opposition if we vote yes? Really, Jake, think about it. How can I fundraise to my base if they know that I voted yes to something Harry Reid and Pelosi supported? How can I look myself in the mirror if I do something Obama asks me to? How will I go down on my wife if I spend a single dollar of the tax payers’ money on healthcare?

    You’re educated. You’re literate. Have you not read the Scarlet Letter? Can’t you picture the scarlet “D” I’d be forced to wear if I voted yes? My conscience be damned, this is about POLITICS!

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