House Republicans late Thursday were able to corral enough votes to defeat a bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to those sickened by toxins resulting from the 9/11 attacks.
In the process, they set off a host of fiery speeches and denunciations from their Democratic colleagues and produced a veritable YouTube moment from Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y), whose district includes many of the affected.
At the heart of the debate was a procedural maneuver made by Democrats to suspend the rules before consideration of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The move allowed leadership to block potential GOP amendments to the measure (there was worry that Republicans would attach something overtly partisan in hopes that it could pass on the otherwise widely-popular measure). It also meant that the party needed a two-thirds majority vote.
When the final tally was announced, there were 255 representatives for the measure, 159 against. The defeat of the bill, which would have provided free health care to those affected during the 9/11 rescue and recovery, likely means that the court system will have to settle compensation issues.
Weiner spoke right before the vote when it was clear that Republican lawmakers would stake their opposition on grounds of procedural concerns. But for the grace of the C-SPAN cameras, he managed to stay physically behind his lectern.
"The gentleman will sit!" he declared at one point, addressing, it is believed, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). "The gentleman is correct in sitting!"