Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) plans to block legislation that would
provide additional aid to cover the health care costs of 9/11 first
responders, one of the senator's aides told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday morning.
Senate Republicans have opposed the measure, also called the Zadroga bill, first over concerns that it would take precedence over a plan to extend the Bush tax cuts -- a deal that has since been reached
-- and now due to issues with the cost-control measures and $7.4
billion cost of the legislation. That money would go toward covering the
medical bills of 9/11 emergency workers who have suffered from health
complications following the inhalation of toxic chemicals at Ground
The current offset proposal
would enact three small taxes and fees that are meant to target
companies that rely on outsourcing jobs in order to provide goods and
services. Coburn said Tuesday, however, that he wants the offsets to
come through spending cuts, and would prefer to see the legislation
reach a floor vote through committee, rather than being fast-tracked, an
action that has been taken to allow a vote on the bill to come before
the end of the session.
Support for the measure had apparently been growing before Coburn's announcement. New York Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand,
two of the bill's sponsors, both claimed Monday that the bill finally
had the votes to pass. That contention appeared to be supported by the
recent comments of a some of key Republicans who had encouraged a Senate
détente in order to send the package through to the President.
On Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani became the latest name on that list.
"This should not be seen as a Democratic or Republican issue. It
shouldn't even been seen as a fiscal issue. This is a matter of
morality, it's a matter of obligation," Giuliani said on an appearance
on a local Fox affiliate.
And last week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said that "every Republican should vote for this bill."
Current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, also urged the Senate to reach an agreement, saying Monday that the "time for excuses is over."