ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
Senate Republicans today rejected a bill to provide up to $7.4 billion in health care benefits and compensation to sick first responders of the 9/11 attacks.
The final vote tally of 57-42 was strictly along party lines, excluding Majority Leader Harry Reid changing his vote to no in order to reconsider the bill at a later date.
The GOP’s decision to block the bill infuriated Senate Democrats, who in the hours leading up to the vote had pleaded for Republicans to get on board.
“This vote is about being an American, because from the days at Bunker Hill, when the patriots put down their plows and took up their muskets to defend and create our freedom, we always tried to take care of them. We have done it again and again for our veterans, and the heroes of 9/11 are no different,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said on the Senate floor this morning.
However, Senate Republicans earlier this month vowed not to vote for any measures until the Senate had resolved the issues of the Bush tax cuts and government funding. Democrats today said that was no excuse for voting against the 9/11 bill.
“I cannot accept as a moral equivalent that some oath not to vote on those who served the country and risked their lives cannot take place because of some vote on some tax issue,” railed Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ. “No one in the nation would believe that it is okay to say, ‘Well, I will not vote to give relief to the health of those individuals who sacrificed their health on September 11th and the days after because I have to wait for some pending tax vote.’”
“Go back to the men and women who served this country and look at them in their eyes and tell them that it is some vote that I’m waiting for on taxes that determines whether or not your health will be responded to,” he fumed. “Shameless!”
Not only did the Senate not pass the 9/11 bill, but they did not even vote on the DREAM Act this morning.
Since the House passed a different version of the DREAM Act last night, Reid said this morning that it would be “really futile” to vote on the Senate bill today. Instead, Reid has opted to try to gain support for the House bill and bring the House bill to a vote in the Senate at some point since – if passed by the Senate – the House bill would then go directly to the president.
“It’s a waste of the Senate’s time because we need to act on a piece of the legislation that’s already passed, so that when we pass it, it would go directly to the president,” Reid said about cancelling today’s planned procedural vote.
The DREAM Act would help undocumented students who came to the US before age 16 become legal residents after five years by completing higher education or military service.