|Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)|
Among them were the DREAM Act, which presents a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants of good character; the new START agreement, which would reduce global nuclear arsenals; and the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military. Certainly, some of these bills would have been contentious, but they all address issues of significance to the nation, even if, by apparent Republican reckoning, those issues are of less significance than ensuring the continuation of policies which have done nothing to create jobs and seriously undermined U.S. financial health.
As if that weren't pathetic enough, another piece of legislation also ran into the brick wall of GOP obstructionism, and it's hard to imagine one which should be less controversial, or which better deserved a vote, no matter the partisan polarization on Capitol Hill. That legislation was H.R.847, commonly referred to as the Zadroga Bill, which would improve health services and provide financial compensation for 9/11 first responders who have become ill or disabled as a result of exposure to dangerous toxins during rescue and cleanup operations at Ground Zero.
The Zadroga Bill would create a federal program to provide health monitoring and treatment for first responders and provide medical screening for people who were in the area of the World Trade Center when the attack occurred and who might be at risk. The Zadroga Bill would also re-open the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation for losses and harm instead of forcing affected individuals to work through the current system, which requires costly and time-consuming litigation. It is a standalone piece of legislation, and as such, it isn't necessary for it to go through a lengthy process of debate and amendment - a simple up or down vote is all that's needed - and it is paid for by closing a tax loophole.
|A New York City firefighter at Ground Zero|
Almost as bad as the failure to advance H.R. 847, however, is the national media's near-complete lack of reportage on the fact that it has been held hostage to the conservative tax cut agenda, despite the total, empirical failure of those policies to do anything but crush the middle class and bust the budget. Republicans have not been shy about using 9/11 imagery in political ads, making the captivity of the Zadroga Bill to their legislative maneuvering even more disturbing than their skewed priorities already are, but almost no one in our national press corps seems to have found that worth discussing. Meanwhile, the men and women who risked their lives - and often sacrificed their health - in order to respond to the single largest terror attack on American soil continue to suffer.
It's been said often in recent years, but it bears repeating as long as it remains true: the landscape of contemporary journalism is a pretty bleak place, and some of the best and most trustworthy reporting available today is on Comedy Central. If you know about the Republican stonewalling of the Zadroga Bill, it's almost certainly because you watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, since other national outlets provided scant, if any, coverage to it.
Mr. Stewart devoted an entire show to the tragic state of affairs surrounding H.R. 847 on December 16th (available here), which built on segments on the topic from earlier in the week. Below is the first such segment, from Monday, December 13th, as well as a portion of Thursday's show focusing on a roundtable with four 9/11 first responders, all of whom are suffering serious, life-threatening illness as a result of their heroism.
Mr. Stewart's frustration and anger were palpable on Monday, and only increased over the course of the week as the Zadroga Bill continued to be blocked by the GOP, and the roundtable discussion is a far cry from The Daily Show's usual satire. Both are required viewing.