“Where’s His Heart?” Dem Senators & First Responders Rip Coburn For Opposing 9/11 Health Bill

Dec 21, 2010 1:53pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:  A group of senators from New York and New Jersey today joined with dozens of first responders to blast Republican opposition to the 9-11 health bill as the measure’s chances of passage dim with each passing day before Christmas.  “I believe we have the votes to prevail. The only thing standing in our way is people who will try to run out the clock,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.  Schumer was referring to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who has vowed to oppose the bill – a move that could derail its chances of passage since every bit of time is precious as Christmas approaches.  Earlier today Coburn – a doctor – told FOX News that the bill’s chances of passage are “doubtful.”  “Their hearts are in a good place. Their heads [are] not in a good place,” Coburn said of the bill’s supporters. “We can do this next year, and we should.”  “This is a bill,” he said, “that’s been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”  Today Schumer fired back.  “That is not fair, not right, and that flies in the face of America,” Schumer said.  “Please don’t stop this bill,” he pleaded. “If it doesn’t happen now it is unlikely to ever happen again.”  “Enough enough enough with the delays!”  “Alright, you’re against the bill,” he said of Coburn. “Don’t use your single vote out of 100 to block the bill from moving forward. It’s that simple. Exercise your right to vote. We think you’re dead wrong. We haven’t persuaded you. That’s fine. Let the majority will go forward and don’t use your power as a senator because we’re on the edge of Christmas to delay and delay and delay so we don’t get the bill done.”  That stance was seconded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, who said she met with Coburn this morning in an effort to address his concerns.  “What we’re asking all our Senate colleagues right now is to put aside partisan politics and come together to do what’s right for these men and women because these are our heroes,” she said.  One of those people – John Feal, the founder of the FealGood foundation, a non-profit organization pushing for the bill’s passage – ripped into Coburn.  “Where’s his heart?” asked Feal. “Because it’s not in the right place. These men and women behind me have gone eight Christmases suffering without any help from the federal government, so I question his heart.”  “This man is a doctor. He took an oath to help people. He shouldn’t be a senator and he shouldn’t be a doctor if he’s going to go out there and attack this bill.”  “A doctor who’s against helping people who are sick? Figure that out,” asked Feal. Feal urged Congress to act on the bill before it adjourns for the year. “You will not go home early. We’ll block the airport. We’ll block the roads out,” he said. James Ryder, a retired member of the NYPD, now suffers from a heart ailment, sleep apnea, and post-traumatic stress disorder. “To my fellow Republicans tear down this wall between patriotism and party and pass this bill,” Ryder said with tears in his eyes. But all of the outrage at today’s press conference was not only directed at Coburn, but also at President Obama, who has not spoken out publicly in favor of the 9/11 measure. “What happened that our president can’t come out and support heroes? Someone please answer that,” demanded Feal. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, urged the president to “speak out and use the bully pulpit,” comparing the president’s possible boost to that of a closer in baseball. “Mr. President, please step up to the mound,” she said. On December 9 the bill failed to advance past a procedural vote in the Senate, but Democrats have since secured the support of the GOP’s Mark Kirk of Illinois and, according to Gillibrand and Schumer, other Republicans who previously objected to how the $6.2 billion bill was paid for. The House-passed version of the bill off-set the costs by closing tax loopholes for foreign companies, a move GOP lawmakers said violated international tax treaties. The new version would off-set the costs by implementing a fee on contracts with foreign countries that have not signed procurement agreements with the US and by extending a visa fee. Even if the Senate passes the bill in the final days before Christmas, the holiday could still present an obstacle because the House would have to pass it again due to the recent changes. While the House could ultimately pass the bill by unanimous consent, there is no guarantee that it would – and the clock is ticking.  

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