The DNC National Committeeman from Long Island, Robert Zimmerman, co-signed a letter with Republican Peter King of New York saying Democrats should put the 9/11 health care bill up for a vote again but without the special requirement preventing Republicans from adding amendments to it.
The legislation would have paid for health care costs for sick rescue workers -- something almost nobody objects to -- but fear of what amendments Republicans would add onto the bill drove Democrats to put the legislation up for a vote under special rules: no amendments would be allowed to be added to the bill, but in order to pass, it needed a two-thirds majority, not just a simple majority.
The letter from Zimmerman and King calls on Republicans to promise not to add any amendments to the bill if it comes up for a vote again. But if they don't make that promise, the vote should take place anyway.
"If House Republicans do not make this agreement, however, we believe the Democratic Leadership has the moral obligation to allow this legislation to pass by a simple majority vote," they wrote in the August 9 letter.
The letter, in its entirety after the jump.
BI-PARTISAN STATEMENT OF REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN PETE KING AND DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN ROBERT ZIMMERMAN CALLING ON THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP TO ALLOW THE 9/11 HEALTH AND COMPENSATION ACT (H.R. 847) TO BE PASSED BY A SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE.
No New Yorker who was alive that day will ever forget the horror of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 or the extraordinary heroism of the more than 400 courageous police officers and firefighters who were killed attempting to rescue the innocent victims trapped high above in the flaming towers.
Nor should we ever forget the heroism of the police officers, firefighters and construction workers who labored tirelessly in the poisoned pit of Ground Zero in the days, weeks and months after 9/11 attempting to recover the remains of victims.
Today thousands of these brave men and women have their lungs filled with pulverized glass and their bloodstreams flowing with deadly toxins. Many have already died. Congress has an absolute moral obligation to provide assistance and sustained medical care to these brave people.
After years of discussion and negotiations, Congress was finally ready to vote during the week of July 26th on legislation (H.R. 847) to provide the needed treatment for the 9/11 first responders. There would be considerably more votes for the bill than the simple majority (218) required to pass important legislation.
At the last moment however, the House Democratic Leadership changed the rules to require a 2/3's majority rather than a simple majority. This was done to protect Democratic members from having to vote on a possible Republican amendment or motion to change the bill by preventing illegal immigrants from taking part in the 9/11 program. Thus, when H.R. 847 came to a vote in the evening of July 29th, it did not pass even though it received a strong majority of 255 votes!
-We call upon the House Democratic Leadership to bring this bill quickly back to the House floor--this time allowing it to pass under the standard rule of a simple majority.
-We call upon the House Republican Leadership to agree not to offer an amendment or a motion to recommit related to illegal immigration or any other "hot button" issue.
-If House Republicans do not make this agreement, however, we believe the Democratic Leadership has the moral obligation to allow this legislation to pass by a simple majority vote. Police officers, firefighters and construction workers should not be allowed to die because elected representatives are reluctant to cast a possibly difficult vote. It would be unconscionable not to pass lifesaving legislation when a clear majority of House members support it.
The New York Times, Newsday, Mayor Bloomberg, union leaders and 9/11 victims organizations are all calling for a simple majority vote. It is the right thing to do.
Congressman Pete King Robert Zimmerman
Ranking Member, Homeland Security Committee New York State Democratic National Committeeman