Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Responders Should Be First Priority

Photo by: Geoff Fear

The lame duck session of the 111th Congress has been fraught with controversy and many have considered the legislation that has been called “crucial” by the current leadership questionable.

The media have been covering several of these legislative priorities ad nauseum, because like the Democratic leaders they share these priorities.

The DREAM Act, which is a backdoor amnesty for illegal immigrants that serve in the armed forces or attend college, has been a major legislative priority for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

The START treaty that many Republicans, particularly John Kyl of Arizona, have many questions about has been something that President Obama has been pushing to get passed quickly.

The repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy had been another thing that Harry Reid wanted to ram through the Senate in the lame duck session and that Nancy Pelosi had already managed to get through the House. That issue is resolved as today the Senate overturned the ban of gays serving openly in the military.

No matter how you feel about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” it’s now law and as retired Lt. General Thomas McInerney- former Vice-Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force- said today on Fox News, what’s important now is that we support the service chiefs in implementing the policy properly so that it doesn’t cause a loss of unit cohesion and in turn a loss of lives. But I digress…

But one issue that the major media have almost entirely ignored is the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010- H.R. 847.This bill (which has already passed the House) would ensure that the firemen, police officers and other 9/11 First Responders that are suffering from an array of illnesses related to their heroic and selfless actions on September 11th, 2001 get the medical care and financial reimbursement that they need and deserve.

Shamefully, the only media outlet that has covered this important legislation is 'The Daily Show' hosted by Jon Stewart. On Thursday night Stewart devoted his entire final show of 2010 to covering the Zadroga Act. He spoke to four 9/11 First Responders about what they’re going through and why they and their fellow first responders need this legislation passed quickly. His other guest was former-Arkansas Governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee (R) who said he supports the bill and urged the Senate to take up the legislation before they adjourn for the holidays.

Stewart’s impassioned coverage led the Huffington Post to run an article, which centered on Governor Huckabee’s appearance and support of the bill.

Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the bill to the floor for a cloture vote on December 9th. However, since neither the tax extension nor the continuing resolution to keep the government operating until February had been dealt with, Republicans and some Democrats did not vote for cloture so that the Senate could debate the bill.

Now that extension of the Bush Era tax cuts has been passed and signed into law, it’s time for the Senate to move quickly to pass a continuing resolution to keep spending levels the same until February of next year and then move to this important piece of legislation. The 9/11 First Responders should be the first priority- not amnesty, not a flawed treaty and not gays serving openly in the military.

Once the Senate passes the Zadroga Act, this illegitimate Congress should go home and let the 112th Congress, elected in November, tackle the other issues next year.