9/11 First Responders Storm Tom Coburn's Office To Protest Block On Their Health Care Bill (VIDEO)
UPDATE: The Senate has reached a deal that is expected to allow for the passage of a scaled-down health care package.
Senator Coburn responded in a statement:
"I'm pleased the sponsors of this bill agreed to lower costs dramatically, offset the bill, sunset key provisions and take steps to prevent fraud. Every American recognizes the heroism of the 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one group while robbing future generations of opportunity. I'm pleased this agreement strikes a fair balance and improves the bill the majority attempted to rush through at the last minute."
The below post has been updated.
A group of 9/11 first responders attempted to storm Tom Coburn's office Tuesday to personally lobby the GOP senator to lift a block that he had vowed to place on legislation meant to help cover their mounting health care costs.
John Feal, head of the responders, told ThinkProgress that they had been prohibited from meeting the Republican opponents of the bill. He called the actions "rude," and criticized Coburn directly:
"Mr. Coburn should be ashamed of himself," Feal told ThinkProgress. "Because I think before he was a senator he was a doctor and he took an oath to help people that are sick. He's going against his oath as a doctor. He can vote any way he wants as a senator, but as a doctor, he just embarrassed the medical profession."
Coburn explained on Tuesday that he was stonewalling the $6.2 billion bill because it hadn't been through a legitimate hearing process. There was a hearing on the measure, however, though Coburn was a no-show, a Senate Democratic aide explained on Tuesday.
Coburn has outlined a six-page list of concerns over the legislation that details some specific areas that the Oklahoma senator found objectionable. Among them: questions about the amount of funding, worries over the creation of a health care entitlement program, and apprehension about the effects of additional taxes and fees that were included as offset mechanisms.
Republicans have also balked on supporting the bill because of its proposed cost offsets, which had at first been designed to close a foreign corporate tax loophole, a tactic that's apparently unacceptable to a number of GOP senators. A second version of the bill would set a fee on federal government contractors with foreign countries that have not signed certain procurement agreements with the U.S and extend a fee that already exists on certain H1B visas.
The ongoing debate has even gotten some members of Fox News riled up. Anchor Shep Smith has repeatedly taken Republicans to task for their reluctance to support the initiative. On Tuesday, Smith called out Coburn for obstructing the measure.
The Hill reports that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the bill's sponsors, has announced plans to bring the measure to the floor on Wednesday afternoon.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that the Senate will hold a cloture vote at around noon to see if the bill providing healthcare benefits to 9/11 first responders can get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
WATCH ThinkProgress's coverage of the 9/11 responders on Capitol Hill:
Here's ThinkProgress's transcript of their interview with John Feal, leader of the first responders group.
FEAL: This is hard to swallow.
TP: What about going office to office? Have their staff and the senators been very receptive to the group?
FEAL: 90 percent of the time. Once in a while we'll run into some resistance and some arrogance and some rude people. Listen, we busted our asses since 9/11. We've fought and advocated for ourselves [while] others wouldn't. So to be insulted by the staff of the United States Senate and Congress - most of them were 12 years old when 9/11 happened - doesn't bother me.
TP: Last question I have is it was revealed today or yesterday that Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said that he was going to place a hold on this bill and not let it come up for a vote at all. If you could send a message to Mr. Coburn, what would that be?
FEAL: Mr. Coburn should be ashamed of himself. Because I think before he was a senator he was a doctor and he took an oath to help people that are sick. He's going against his oath as a doctor. He can vote any way he wants as a senator, but as a doctor, he just embarrassed the medical profession.