In this lame duck session, Senate Republicans are grasping at every possible reason to “run out the clock” on any Democratic priority. Their brazen obstruction, however, took some victims last week when they used another filibuster to block the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Named after a New York City policeman who died from health complications, this legislation that provides health care to 9/11 first responders and emergency workers who suffered illnesses from working at Ground Zero.
Not one Republican senator came to the floor to explain why the desperately needed, fully paid-for compensation didn’t deserve to pass. When Fox News’ Don Imus pressed Sen. John Thune (R-SD) for an explanation, Thune said the tax cuts are a bigger priority because “there is a deadline.” And when first responders came to the Senate to advocate for the bill yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) actually called the Capitol police on them to prevent a sit-in.
Such callous miscarriage of responsibility was not lost on The Daily Show. Ripping the GOP earlier this week for “co-opting 9/11 imagery” while simultaneously killing legislation to help 9/11 victims, host Jon Stewart dedicated his entire show last night to censure their obstruction. Disgusted by Thune’s “deadline for taxes” excuse, Stewart scoffed, “yes there are only two sure things in life. Death and taxes. Apparently, the only thing this cat cares about is taxes.”
Then, in a unique segment for the Daily Show, Stewart held a panel discussion with four 9/11 first responders suffering from serious health issues to offer their views on Republican obstruction. Recounting Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) silence over their plight, Stewart then played McConnell’s emotional, teary farewell to retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). The first responders pointed to McConnell’s tears as a sign of his grossly misplaced priorities:
STEWART: That’s Sen. Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate, he’s talking about Sen. Judd Gregg who’s retiring from the Senate.
JOHN DEVLIN, ENGINEER: Yeah, he’s shedding a tear on his lunch buddy that he hangs out with everyday. Where is his human feeling for — not only for us, we represent the brother and sisters…that can’t come out and speak like we can. It’s sad to see someone like him —
STEWART: To be fair, they have worked together for six years. […]
KENNY SPECK, FDNY: Watching that, there’s only one thing I can say. I found time to dress as a New York City fireman on September 11, isn’t that incredible?…I tell you I feel bad for Mitch McConnell, you know, he said something very important. He’s going to watch his friend walk out of the Senate chambers, and unfortunately that’s more than a New York City firefighter can say about 343 of his brothers who can’t walk anymore.
Stewart then noted another GOP excuse for this tragic miscarriage of responsibility — “hey man, it’s Christmas” — and asked for their take on Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) complaint that working after Christmas was somehow “disrespectful” to the Senate:
STEWART: Basically what he’s saying is that I can’t stay here and work between Christmas and New Years, that would be disrespecting Christians and his family. Do you have any thoughts on that?
SPECK: It just goes to show the disconnect between those we elect to represent us, and those who get out there and do the work. Because I’m here to say that you won’t find a single New York City firefighter who considers it a sign of disrespect to work in a New York City firehouse on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.[…]
DEVLIN: It was an honor to work through Christmas on that 9/11.
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Stewart reserved further outrage for media outlets that failed to cover the story for two and a half months. Calling it an “outrageous abdication of our responsibility for those who were most heroic on 9/11,” Stewart pointed out that Middle-Eastern network Al Jazeera was the only network to give the full 22 minutes of coverage it deserved.” Fox News, “the nation’s leading source of 9/11-based outrage,” Stewart noted that while Fox News paraded 9/11 imagery and first responders during its campaign against Park51, the Republican-friendly network failed to highlight even one first responder to address this issue. Fox News’s Peter Johnson did rail against the Senate filibuster, but as Stewart noted, “he never mentioned that it was the Republicans holding up the bill.” His guest, Fox News host and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK), agreed that “every Republican should vote for this bill” but refused to censure Fox for generating “ its 9/11 outrage machine.”
In his characteristic use of satire, Stewart juxtaposed the Senate’s failure to help the first responders with their quick response to Ground Zero on September 11: “On 9/11, when you heard the towers got hit, when you guys voted — obviously you needed a supermajority to vote to go down there, right?” One responder quipped, “Yeah, we barely made it by one vote.”