Peter King Erupts Over 9/11 Health Bill Debate

News Article

Date: July 28, 2010

Wall Street Journal

An upcoming vote on a health care bill for Ground Zero workers has sparked angry words between Democrats and Republicans in Congress as each side blames the other for the bill's expected defeat.

"This is total moral cowardice on the part of the Democrats," Rep. Peter King said Wednesday. The Long Island Republican, who supports the bill, continued: "the Democrats are afraid of a tough vote, and they'd rather let cops and firefighters die."

King lashed out after Democrats hit Republicans for opposing the measure over a provision that would pay for the program by re-applying a tax on foreign-registered firms with U.S. operations. The GOP calls that a tax hike; Democrats call it "ending a tax loophole'.

Democrats have said those who vote against the bill put corporate wealth ahead of sick first responders. That attack infuriated King, who noted Democrats have the majority and therefore should be able to pass the bill whenever they want. About a dozen or so GOP members are expected to support the measure. King said New York Democrats are covering for the timidity of their party leaders.

Democrats had planned a vote on the multi-billion dollar program Wednesday, but pushed it back a day as they tried desperately to muster enough votes. But passage doesn't look likely, particularly since they have decided to use a procedure called suspension to avoid a messy debate on immigration, and whether the bill should cover illegal immigrants who were sickened by Ground Zero dust and debris.

Under suspension, a measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and Wednesday morning neither side believed the bill has that much support. Democrats chose that route because they feared a traditional floor vote would lead to an amendment explicitly barring any illegal immigrants from receiving care under the program. Such an amendment would likely split Democratic support for the bill.