The New York Daily News is reporting that, after a marathon negotiating session late last night and continuing into this morning, Senate Democrats have struck a deal to pass the 9/11 first responders bill with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has been blocking the bill because of its cost. Coburn, along with fellow-obstructionist Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), managed to extract huge concessions, bringing the total compensation package to $4.3 billion, down from an original pool of over $7 billion. The “time span was also significantly limited to five years each for the health treatment program.”
“I’ll stand in the way of anything that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t spend our money wisely, so you know, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, we’re in such a hole, Jon, that we don’t have the luxury of not getting things right,” Coburn told ABC News today after announcing the deal.
Last night on CNBC, Coburn defended his obstruction of the bill and his insistence that it lavishes too much money on dying 9/11 first responders, saying “we’re spending four times as much money as we need to.” Coburn said that the actual cost of pre-deal bill would be $11 billion (he disputed the way the Congressional Budget Office scored it), and suggested that it was not paid for, saying, “we don’t have an extra $11 billion right now.” Watch it:
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Of course, the bill would not require an “extra” $11 billion. The bill is entirely paid for by offsets, some of which were changed at the GOP’s behest. As ThinkProgress has noted, these offsets — which at one point included a tax on foreign corporations — led the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby against the measure.
Meanwhile, on MSNBC’s Countdown last night, guest host Chris Hayes brought on Ground Zero worker T.J. Gilmartin, who recounted his disturbing interaction with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the bill earlier this month. Gilmartin told his heartbreaking story about losing his ability to breath properly after working in the toxic dust at Ground Zero, how he can no longer work, and has “nothing left.” Still, he said he has no regrets about volunteering to work after 9/11. Speaking hypothetically to Coburn, Gilmartin asked, “what about the responders in Oklahoma?” “What are you going to tell them as they get sicker and sicker and start dying and they need help? Are you going tell them, ‘Well, I had a to bicker like a 5 year old in kindergarten’?” Watch it: