Senate Republicans block 9/11 health bill

Republican senators held together Thursday to defeat a measure to provide extra funds to treat first responders sickened after working in rescue efforts after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, voting down a cloture motion, 57-42.

Senators from New York and New Jersey blasted Republicans' votes against the measure, calling their tax legislation priorities misguided. All 42 Senate Republicans have vowed to object to all legislation until tax-cut and government-funding bills are passed.

"Frankly, it's exactly what's wrong with Washington -- an example of politics put above people," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said after the vote.

"To me, it is morally reprehensible that there is somehow an equivalency between a tax vote and an excuse for not voting on this," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

But the tax vote is not the only obstacle in the bill's path. Republicans in the House and Senate have opposed the legislation, calling it an unnecessary new entitlement program.

The vote is likely the last the bill will get in the 111th Congress, and the outcome effectively kills the legislation because the new House Republican majority is not expected to take it up next year. Nevertheless, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed to "pursue every possible route" to passage before the Senate leaves next week, and he did not rule out trying to attach the bill to must-pass legislation.

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