NY reps. bicker over 9/11 responder bill’s defeat
WASHINGTON (AP) – The House’s rejection of bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center dust has opened a sharp rift between two New York congressmen, Republican Peter King and Democrat Anthony Weiner.
The verbal jousting came on the House floor Thursday night as the vote neared. The results fell largely along party lines, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats supporting the measure, but it failed to win the needed two-thirds majority.
Video of the heated dustup between the two New Yorkers quickly became an Internet sensation and fodder for cable news networks Friday.
Arms flailing and his voice rising, Weiner took sharp aim at King, who represents part of Long Island.
“The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues rather than doing the right thing,” bellowed Weiner, whose district includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens. “Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of heroes. It’s a shame, a shame.”
King, a key backer of the bill, had moments earlier accused Democrats of staging a “charade.”
The rift developed over how the bill was put before the chamber.
Democratic leaders opted to consider it under a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote for approval rather than a simple majority. The move blocked potential GOP amendments to the measure.
King said Democrats were “petrified” about casting votes on the amendments, possibly including one that would ban aid from going to illegal immigrants sickened by trade center dust. King said the bill was more important than “a campaign talking point.”
King’s comments rankled New York Democrats. They blamed Republicans for not supporting the bill and accused King of not doing enough to win more GOP support for the measure.
The jabbering continued during a raucous joint appearance by the two congressmen Friday on Fox News Channel. With tempers still running high, the two men repeatedly interrupted one another.
Weiner asserted that despite all the “whining about the process,” the House had an up-or-down vote on a program to extend more aid to those made sick by the World Trade Center dust.
“Every day on the streets of New York I hear people say, ‘Why don’t you guys just have up-or-down votes?’ We had one last night,” Weiner said, jabbing a thumb toward King. “They voted it down.”
Weiner went on to mock King, noting just 12 Republicans voted for the bill while 243 Democrats supported it.
“Twelve, Peter?” Weiner said. “That’s all you can muster? Your influential position, that’s all you could get?”
“This is phony hypocrisy,” he shot back. “They could pass the bill right now if they wanted to.”
New York lawmakers have said they plan to keep pressing for the bill once Congress returns from its August recess.