Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Calling them on it

Cowardly fucks, or something like that...

Rep. Weiner (D-NY) explains,

The specifics of the debate last week should be an example of an issue beyond partisan dispute. The bill in question was created to help the thousands of citizens who went to ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. These are Americans who wanted to help, and who scientific studies now show are falling ill and dying in troubling numbers.

After nine years, the House had a chance to make this right by voting on a bill that would provide treatment, screening and compensation to Americans who sacrificed their safety that day, as well as Lower Manhattan residents and others who have suffered injury from exposure to the dust and debris.

Though it should have been a legislative slam dunk, the bill was defeated on a simple up-or-down vote, with only 12 Republicans voting in favor. Just 21 additional Republican votes would have been sufficient for passage.

It was frustrating to hear Republicans say these people didn’t deserve more help because, as one put it, “people get killed all the time.” Others called it another big entitlement program. Some said it was a giveaway to New York, or complained that the bill would have been paid for by closing a tax loophole. We responded to each of these arguments over the summer in the hours of hearings and markups of the bill. And the answers are pretty simple.

The truth is that this is a limited program, with a cap, because it is restricted to 9/11 responders and others directly affected by the toxic substances. As we all remember, the victims of ground zero dust came from all over the nation — they weren’t just New Yorkers. And, frankly, I don’t see what’s wrong with trying to close a loophole that lets foreign multinational corporations avoid paying taxes on income they have earned in the United States.

There were also Republican objections that we put the bill on the “suspension calendar,” which is generally used for noncontroversial legislation, as this measure should have been. This move meant that the bill required a two-thirds favorable vote for approval rather than a simple majority, but it also kept the bill from getting bogged down in debate and stuck with poison-pill amendments.

Still, what upset me most last week were comments voiced by Republicans who claimed to be supporters of the bill, yet who used their time on the House floor not to persuade skeptical Republican colleagues to vote yes but to excoriate Democrats for using the suspension calendar.

Although I had already spoken earlier in the debate, on Friday I felt it was important that someone object to this effort to make the health of those at ground zero just another partisan issue. And I got angry. I didn’t break decorum, but I did say what I was thinking and feeling.

I love the House of Representatives and its rules, and I was careful to respect regular order. But I believe sometimes we mistakenly assume you can’t follow those rules and also say what you think, forcefully. Especially when this galling behavior has been on display for years now.

This wasn’t the first time obstructionism has come to us cloaked in procedure. Recall that after months of negotiations, Republicans voted unanimously against the health care reform bill. And then they complained about process. Similarly in January, after Senate Republicans introduced a bill calling for a deficit commission, they refused to support the legislation when the president took them up on the idea. And, of course, they used technical objections as an excuse.

Instead of engaging in a real debate about how to address the challenges we face, Republicans have turned to obstruction, no matter the issue, and then cry foul after the fact. They claim to want an open legislative process with more consultation and debate, but the truth is they simply don’t want to pass anything.

Meanwhile, conservative television and talk radio programs are full of false anger, intended to scare Americans. I think some genuine frustration at this misleading tactic is overdue.

Exactly right.



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