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Arizona Sen. John McCain is under fire from his Democratic counterparts for a remark on the Senate floor yesterday, where he said lawmakers who support a health care bill for Ground Zero workers are "fooling around."
The bill, which would provide up to $7.4 billion in aid for workers sickened by World Trade Center dust after the 9/11 attacks, was shot down by Republican lawmakers this month after they refused to consider the legislation until tax cuts were extended.
On Friday, McCain -- a veteran and former Republican nominee for president --said Democratic leaders needlessly stalled a vote on a missile treaty with Russia “after all of the fooling around we’ve been doing” by holding loose votes on immigration and the Ground Zero health-care legislation.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), one of the main supporters of the bill, took to the Senate floor, saying “To call helping (first responders) fooling around is saddening and frustrating."
“We are not fooling around. We are fulfilling our duty as patriotic Americans.”
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg also blasted McCain, calling his comments “shocking.”
Even after last week's setback in the Senate, Schumer and New York's junior Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have been working non-stop to get enough Republican support to pass the measure.
A group of first responders came down to Washington this week to meet with Republicans lawmakers.
The House passed the bill earlier this year with a vote of 268 to 160.
To pay the bill's estimated $7.4 billion cost over 10 years, the legislation would have prevented foreign multinational corporations incorporated in tax haven countries from avoiding tax on income earned in the U.S.
Bill supporters said that would close a tax loophole. Republicans branded it a corporate tax increase. Critics say there's no way to ensure the bill is paying for diseases stemming from toxic debris at the World Trade Center Site.
The legislation is named for James Zadroga, a police detective who died at age 34. His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero, but New York City's medical examiner said Zadroga's lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse.