WASHINGTON—There is, indeed, as Mr. Jagger once put it, fever in the funkhouse now. People walked around the Capitol on Tuesday with one eye on Wednesday, when Robert Mueller will speak to a couple of committees of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, some stuff got done and some of it even was good. Late Tuesday afternoon, the Senate voted 97-2 to replenish the victims assistance fund for those first-responders who worked on the pile and the pit at Ground Zero in New York, and subsequently sickened and died of diseases that a great number of local and national politicians told them they didn't really have.
Who are the two? Do you even have to ask? One was konztotooshunal skolar Mike Lee of Utah and the other was Rand Paul, the former brogressive hero—replaced, for the moment, I guess, by Josh Hawley of Missouri—who leapt to the electric Twitter machine to explain why, in his principled opinion, former firefighters in the future simply would have to choke to death on their own blood.
While I support our heroic first responders, I can’t in good conscience vote for legislation which to my dismay remains unfunded. We have a nearly trillion dollar deficit and $22 trillion in debt. Spending is out of control.
Paul, last seen skedaddling away from a New York 1 television reporter in what appeared to be a tracking shot for the next installment of the Bourne saga, of course did vote for the massive tax cut that is presently ballooning the deficit and depositing most of its benefits in various bank accounts in the Caymans. But when it comes to sick and dying cops and firemen, he violates both the shebeen's Five-Minute Rule regarding anything said by any member of his family, but also the shebeen's First Law of Economics:
Fck The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.
Or oxygen, for that matter.
But thanks to relentless lobbying, and the game-changing outrage of Jon Stewart, the bill finally passed, to actual applause, in the Senate on Tuesday. (Stewart has gotten conspicuously angry in public twice. The first time, he got Crossfire cancelled. The second time, he got this bill passed. He's already contributed more to American politics than Newt Gingrich has in 30 years.) But as John Feal, the ramrod activist behind the bill, reminded everyone afterwards, this wasn't the typical group of professional lobbyists. They weren't lounging at the Palm or arriving in private jets. They were sick and dying people asking for help, for themselves and for the ones that assuredly will come later.
"There's no joy. There's no comfort. Yes, I cried with Jon, but that was to exhale. That was to get 18 years of pain and suffering out. And it's out," said Feal, whose foot was crushed while he was working on the pile, and who was denied assistance because his injury had occurred too long after the attacks to count. This was Feal's first encounter with a system that seemed to use red tape instead of bandages.
"I'm just so proud of these guys and these women behind me," Feal continued. "They drove down 95 countless times, stopping at rest stops, taking medications, having their wives yelling at me, telling me to make sure they take their medication. We had a small window and we took it, and we're leaving DC and we're going out with dignity and class."
There are so many times when everything seems stuck in the mud around this place. As it happens, the first people I ran into in Washington this trip were a group of retired coal miners, come to plead for money to help them fight the black lung that is the way so many of them have died through the decades. They were the first group of people I saw walking across Capitol Hill carrying portable oxygen. Some of them were in wheelchairs. Everybody in this country so very much needs to breathe.
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