Though GOP obstructionism in the lame duck session has failed to stop many important bills, including the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the likely the ratification of the START treaty, one piece of legislation Senate Republicans have successfully hindered thus far is a bill to provide health benefits to 9/11 first responders. Though few GOPers have been willing to publicly discuss their opposition — indeed, not a single Republican came to the Senate floor to defend their position — Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) explained to Fox News that Republicans don’t want to “hurry” and wondered aloud “why would they need $6 billion?”
The most ardent opponent of the bill giving health benefits for 9/11 first responders, however, is Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). The man known as “Dr. No” is personally blocking the bill from being considered, a move so extreme it even drew the ire of Fox News.
With Congress wrapping up its legislative session soon, approximately 50 first responders traveled to the nation’s capital from New York yesterday in an attempt to sit down with the obstructionist senators and persuade Coburn and other Republicans to allow a vote on the bill.
ThinkProgress met with the group as it visited Coburn’s office. The first responders calmly explained to Coburn’s staff why they were there and requested a meeting. Instead, a meeting was denied and the staff demanded the first responders leave the office. After being made to wait outside the senator’s office for 20 minutes, the first responders finally left, singing “God Bless America” as they exited the Russell Senate office building. Watch it:
ThinkProgress also caught up with John Feal, the leader of the group of 9/11 first responders. Feal had some harsh words for Coburn:
FEAL: This is hard to swallow.
TP: What about going office to office? Have their staff and the senators been very receptive to the group?
FEAL: 90 percent of the time. Once in a while we’ll run into some resistance and some arrogance and some rude people. Listen, we busted our asses since 9/11. We’ve fought and advocated for ourselves so others wouldn’t. So to be insulted by the staff of the United States Senate and Congress – most of them were 12 years old when 9/11 happened – doesn’t bother me.
TP: Last question I have is it was revealed today or yesterday that Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said that he was going to place a hold on this bill and not let it come up for a vote at all. If you could send a message to Mr. Coburn, what would that be?
FEAL: Mr. Coburn should be ashamed of himself. Because I think before he was a senator he was a doctor and he took an oath to help people that are sick. He’s going against his oath as a doctor. He can vote any way he wants as a senator, but as a doctor, he just embarrassed the medical profession.
Senate Democrats will try again around noon today to bring the 9/11 first responders bill up for a vote. Though just two GOP votes are needed to reach the 60 votes necessary to consider the bill, at this moment, no Republican senators have stepped forward in support.