Senate passes 9/11 first responder health care bill

(The house passed it also – updates are below)

At 1:30 p.m. ET time today the Senate finally passed, by “unanimous” voice vote, a revised version of the health care bill for 9/11 first responders, officially known in the Senate as “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“. The bill, which provides free medical care for the firefighters and first responders who are suffering long term effects from the toxic air at Ground Zero, was first introduced in the Senate June 24, 2009 and was passed by the House on September 29, 2010, but had not been voted on in the Senate until today. Several Republican Senators employed numerous tactics to delay or attempt to kill the bill, including Mitch McConnell, Peter King, and Tom Coburn.

The affirmative vote today followed a compromise that reduced the total amount allocated to first responders by $2 billion down to a total of $4.2 billion, and reduced the time frame for health care from a 10-year period to 5 years.

Since the Senate passed a modified version of the bill, the House will have to consider and vote on the Senate version.

We will update this article when we know more about what the House will do with the bill.

More information about our coverage of the bill.


UPDATE @ 5:38 p.m. ET, December 22, 2010

CNN is reporting via Twitter:

9/11 first responders bill passes House 206-60

And 168 did not bother to vote at all.

However, one Representative made an extraordinary effort to cast a vote, according to Chad Pergram, a reporter at Fox News:

At least two lawmakers flew back to vote: Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) who flew back from Puerto Rico where she was tending to her ailing mother.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) was the last member to come in and vote… just before they closed it around 5:38 pm.

She was wearing sweat pants and New Balance track shoes, no coat and crying.

I asked her why it was so important for her to come back.

“I was torn between two important things that I care about,” Velazquez said fighting back tears. “My mother and the 9-11 responders.”

Valazquez says her 90-year-old mother is in San Juan and suffering from bleeding ulcers.

Valazquez said her plane landed at 5:20 pm and she came directly to the Capitol to vote. She will return to Puerto Rico tomorrow morning.

Thank you Representatives Valazquez and Doyle!

The single representative from South Dakota, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D), must have been tied up at a Christmas party or something, since she didn’t bother to vote. But I imagine she was closer to D.C. than Rep. Valazqauez was.

I expect the President will sign the bill very soon, and then the aid can begin flowing to the injured firefighters and other first responders.

WHEW! Finally. Merry Christmas everybody.


The Senators took the coward’s way out and agreed to a “unanimous” voice vote. No doubt some were against it, but their votes were not recorded.

Below are lists of how the Representatives in the House voted today, according to (Keep their positions in mind in November of 2012 when many of these will asking for YOUR vote to represent you for another two years.)

Continue reading “Senate passes 9/11 first responder health care bill”

Montana Representative’s lawsuit against Billings FD stalled, for now

Rep Denny Rehberg
Rep. Denny Rehberg. Photo: Facebook

Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg’s lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department over the loss of trees and ground cover on his property during an 1,100-acre fire in 2008 is stalled, for now anyway. While Rehberg has filed the lawsuit, he has not yet taken the next step of serving it. Michele Braukmann, the attorney representing the city, said “I understand they don’t plan to actually serve the city (with the lawsuit) until after the election”.

So after next week’s election, we may hear more from U. S. Congressman Rehberg. Meanwhile, his spokesman refused to comment on the lawsuit when asked by the Billings Gazette. His attorney said the election has nothing to do with the inactivity of the case.

Is it possible that Congressman Rehberg thinks that publicity about his lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department over the loss of some vegetation would influence some voters? Might they think that he was just looking at the city as having deep pockets and is hoping to supplement his congressman’s salary of $174,000 a year?

Our previous articles on Congressman Denny Rehberg’s lawsuit:

UPDATE @ 6:30 p.m., Oct. 28

Based on his personal financial disclosure statement for calendar year 2009 filed with the U.S. House in June, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg has a net worth of between $12.2 million and $57.6 million.

Landowners sue state of Alaska for vegetation that burned in 2009 fire

rex creek railbelt fire complex
The Rex Creek fire on August 4, 2009, part of the Railbelt Complex in Alaska. Photo: ADF

According to an article at, four landowners are demanding that the state of Alaska give them at least $100,000 each because some vegetation burned on their property during the 636,224-acre Railbelt Complex southwest of Nenana in 2009.

The landowners claim in the lawsuit that fire managers failed to adequately mopup the fire following some rains, and the fire later flared up, burning vegetation on their property which decreased the value. The lawsuit says firefighters lit a backfire on their property in order to stop the fire’s spread.

This brings to mind Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg’s lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department over the loss of trees and ground cover on his property during an 1,100-acre fire in 2008.

The 747 Supertanker made it’s first drop on an actual fire in North America on the Railbelt Complex.

Here is an article on Wildfire Today containing a video of an aerially-ignited firing operation on the Railbelt Complex.

Congress rejects medical treatment for 9/11 responders

The House of Representatives failed to pass on Thursday a plan to provide funds for medical treatment for rescue workers and residents of New York City who are ill after being exposed to the toxic dust and debris at ground zero following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. An organized effort by House Republicans shot it down.

Some wildland firefighters were exposed to the toxic materials when they were serving on Incident Management Teams that were assigned to the disaster.

Here is a very entertaining video that shows Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) ripping into a Republican who indicated that he would vote no. It is believed that Weiner was yelling at Rep. Pete King (R-NY) who said he would vote against the bill for procedural reasons.

FirefighterCloseCalls has an excellent report on this shameful lack of support for our felow firefighters.

Here is a record of how your Representative voted. A two-thirds vote was required for approval.

U. S. Representative Denny Rehberg, who is suing the Billings, MT fire department over a fire that burned some of his undeveloped land, voted against the bill.

Billings Fire Chief disputes Rep. Rehberg’s allegations

The Fire Chief of the Billings Fire Department, Paul Dextras, has disputed some of the allegations that U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) made in his lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department. Rehberg is asking for a cash payment from the city for damages done to his undeveloped Montana property during a 1,200-acre fire in 2008.

One of Rehberg’s allegations is that the fire department did not respond to requests for information and incident reports about the fire. However the Billings Gazette, after completing a one-page form and paying 25 cents per page, was able to get copies of them, including narratives, summaries of 911 calls and the names of firefighters and commanders on the scene.

Rehberg also claimed that the Billings city officials ignored a request to meet with them, but Chief Dextras said Wednesday that they met with the Rehbergs twice, and provided the Billings Gazette with incident reports about the meetings.

More information is at the Billings Gazette. HERE and HERE are letters to the editor at the newspaper about Rehberg’s suit. HERE is a video of a portion of Rehberg’s talk at the Montana State Fireman’s Association meeting on July 5.

Update July 21, 2010:

The Billings Gazette has copies of maps and fire reports:

Representative Rehberg talks about his fire department lawsuit at firefighters’ meeting

Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) made a hastily scheduled appearance at the Montana State Fireman’s Association annual convention in Billings, MT on Tuesday. In an attempt to make nice with firefighters, his remarks included a defense of the lawsuit he has filed against the Billings Fire Department over the strategy used on a wildfire in 2008 that burned some of his property. Rehberg is asking for cash from the city of Billings for the loss of vegetation on his property.

Here is an excerpt from the Billings Gazette about the event:

Rehberg asked to address the firefighters’ convention after the lawsuit took a political turn and Rehberg came under attack from his Democratic opponent, Dennis McDonald of Melville. Wearing a Melville Volunteer Fire Department cap, McDonald stood in the back of the room and smiled as Rehberg said the lawsuit had become politicized for McDonald’s gain.

“I apologize that this has become a political issue,” Rehberg said. “Welcome to my world, because everything I say, everything I do, every action that I take ends up being in a political scene when you’ve got a campaign and you’ve got candidates that are willing to say and do anything to win an election.”

Rehberg addressed the lawsuit for a few minutes and then switched to the state of the economy and his view of the difference between Republicans and Democrats. After he finished speaking, Rehberg met privately for 30 minutes with the leadership of Local 521, the union that represents Billings firefighters.

Neither Rehberg nor Local 521 leadership would comment about what was said in the closed-door meeting.

Rehberg’s appearance at the convention wasn’t planned well in advance, but he apparently met with some of the firefighters at a social event Monday night, and last week he asked convention organizers for the chance to speak. The press wasn’t notified in advance of the speech, and even some Rehberg staffers seemed caught off guard by his appearance at the convention.

Rehberg and the firefighters tried to downplay the political tension in the air, as McDonald was already slated to speak at 1 p.m. Some of the firefighters were trying to distance themselves from the politics surrounding the lawsuit.