Published December 23, 2015
Republican Rep. Peter King is calling on House Democrats to bring back for a vote the $7.4 billion aid bill for Sept. 11 rescue workers, just over a week after he and fellow New York Rep. Anthony Weiner clashed over the legislation on the House floor.
Weiner, a Democrat, and King both support the package. But tempers flared when only 12 House Republicans voted for it and the bill tanked. Weiner, shouting on the House floor, blamed Republicans for the bill's failure and criticized King for not doing more to gain the support of his colleagues.
King, however, blames Democrats for requiring a two-thirds majority vote. He wants Democratic leaders to bring the bill back, this time requiring only a simple majority -- since the bill won 255 supporters, it would easily pass with a 218-vote simple majority threshold.
King spared no criticism of Democratic leaders in calling for a do-over.
"We had 255 votes. It doesn't matter how many Democrats and Republicans ... All we should have needed was 218," King told Fox News on Monday. "I've never heard of an important bill having 255 votes and not being allowed to pass. As far as I'm concerned, the Democratic leadership sabotaged this and doomed it to failure."
The fight between King and Weiner spilled over into a joint Fox News interview last month. King claimed Democrats originally required the two-thirds majority in order to block a GOP amendment on illegal immigrants.
But King said Monday that if Democrats bring the bill back, he will call on his GOP colleagues not to bring up amendments on such issues.
"It's more important that we take care of the cops and firefighters," he said.
In a statement released Monday by King and New York State Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman, the two officials said Democratic leaders should bring back the bill even if House Republicans do not agree to withhold amendments.
"It would be unconscionable not to pass lifesaving legislation when a clear majority of House members support it," they wrote.
Weiner, though, said Republicans dropped the ball. In a New York Times column published a few days after his outburst on the floor, Weiner said the package "should have been a legislative slam dunk" if not for Republican opposition.
"Just 21 additional Republican votes would have been sufficient for passage," he wrote. Weiner defended the decision to require a two-thirds majority vote, saying the move kept the package from "getting bogged down in debate and stuck with poison-pill amendments."
It's unclear when Democrats would have time to schedule another vote. House lawmakers are returning from August recess to vote on a state aid bill this week, but then return to their districts for several more weeks. It may be impossible for the House to take up the bill before Sept. 8, the date by which Ground Zero workers involved in lawsuits must decide whether to accept a key settlement offer. In the case, a judge and a team of lawyers have been urging 10,000 former Ground Zero workers to sign a settlement that would split $713 million among those who suffered respiratory problems and other illnesses after inhaling World Trade Center ash. The deal is similar to the aid program sitting in Congress but involves far less money.
Under the terms of the deal, 95 percent of those workers must say yes for the settlement to take effect.