ABC News | December 21, 2010
ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
In the face of mounting criticism about his opposition to the 9/11 bill, is Sen. Tom Coburn backing down?
The Oklahoma Republican just posted a seven-page document on his website outlining why he opposes it.
“The United States of America does have an obligation to provide for those devastated by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It is not unpatriotic, however, to express concerns with the specific approach” of the bill,” he said.
Coburn said the bill “creates an expansive new health care entitlement program, despite multiple existing federally-supported health care programs for 9/11 first responders and victims” and “re-opens the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF), despite the fund’s original intent to be temporary in nature and a recent $815 million settlement that addressed gaps in compensation funding.”
In particular, Coburn stated, the bill "provides overly generous funding, failing to acknowledge existing public and private benefits and past compensation; creates a $3.2 billion health care entitlement; provides an additional $3 billion in unnecessary and duplicative compensation funds; and increases taxes through protectionist and counterproductive revenue increases."
A Democratic aide who read over the document denounced it as “a disappointing attempt to mislead America about how these first responders have struggled and need our help.”
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office promptly sent out a press release from the Oklahoma City Firefighters Association calling on senators to “stand tall with America’s first responders. Instead of employing procedural tactics of delay, vote to give the heroes of 9/11 the protection and benefits they have earned.”
The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the 9/11 bill sometime tomorrow after the final vote on START. New York Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer say they have the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster threshold, but what happens next could be the real key.
Coburn is prepared to insist on a full debate before passing the bill – a debate that could require the Senate to stay in session continuously until early next week, according to a Coburn aide. And the House would then have to reconvene after Christmas to pass the version that ultimately emerges from the Senate.
So who will blink first – Democrats who want to pass the bill this year or Coburn who threatens to keep the Senate in session through Christmas and beyond?