Indiana GOP delegation prioritizes tax loopholes over 9/11 heroes

Last night, the House failed to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.  The bill needed a 2/3 majority to pass, but the final vote was 255-159. Indiana’s Congressional delegation split their votes along party lines: Carson, Donnelly, Ellsworth, Hill, and Visclosky voted for the bill, while Pence, Burton, and Buyer voted against it.

This piece of legislation was named after NYPD detective & 9/11 responder James Zadroga, who died at the age of 34 after developing a disease attributed to inhaling toxic chemicals. Zadroga dedicated 450 hours to helping with rescue and recovery efforts and Ground Zero. This bill would have provided medical care to responders and nearby residents who continue to suffer the after-effects of the terrorist attack.

Today, the GOP wants to talk about arcane rules of procedure or NY Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (justifiably) angry speech on the House floor. But that’s just because they don’t want to talk about this bill or their votes.

While the GOP, including our Hoosier delegation, has never hesitated to call these responders heroes in the past, this vote revealed how little they actually care about the sacrifice of those Americans. When it’s cheap to praise them, Reps. Pence, Burton, and Buyer are there. But when it comes to doing the right thing and standing by our heroes, they’re nowhere to be found.

The GOP offered a specific script to its members for opposing this bill, calling it a “new entitlement program,” a “tax increase”, and a special giveaway to “trial lawyers.” The one problem? The bill was entirely paid for by closing a tax loophole on foreign companies doing business in the US.

Steve Buyer serves on the committee that initially heard the bill, and he followed the GOP script on this bill to perfection. He offered a meaningless, redundant amendment to make doubly sure that no undocumented immigrants would be eligible to receive money under the fund – something already explicit in the text of the bill. Before voting against the bill in committee (PDF), Buyer criticized the bill as costing too much and being a parochial giveaway, saying:

"If we want to talk about New York City and Congress only acting for the benefit of New York City, that’s what this bill is about." (Source: NY Daily News)

I think it’s clear from the GOP’s vote what this what about: protecting tax loopholes for foreign companies instead of protecting the heroic Americans who responded to the 9/11 attacks.