We all learned it in civics class: The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 Members. For a bill to pass, 218 Representatives must vote “yes.”
It’s pretty simple. House Democratic leaders know exactly how to pass a bill. They got President Obama’s health care reform and controversial climate change bills passed by getting 219 members to vote “yes.”
Yet when the House recently considered a bill to provide health care for sick and dying 9-11 first responders, the Democratic leadership, for political reasons, sabotaged the bill by changing the rules in a cowardly, cruel hoax, saying that a simple majority of votes would not be enough. We would have to get two-thirds.
This change meant that even though 255 Representatives voted “yes,” the bill still failed. If Democrats had not raised the bar and had simply required 218 “yes” votes, the bill would have passed.
Before the vote, I blew the whistle on the Democratic leadership for changing the rules and dooming the bill to failure. This incensed Rep. Anthony Weiner, who embarked on a rambling tirade of misinformation.
Frankly, I was a bit surprised to see Rep. Weiner react in the way he did, because he was never a major player working to pass this bill. Since then, Rep. Weiner has attempted to justify his conduct.
Rep. Weiner has faulted me for failing to use my time on the House floor to counter certain Republican comments. Rep. Weiner must not have been paying attention, because the comments in question were actually made after I spoke, and after he spoke. Obviously, it was impossible for me to counter what someone said before he said it.
Rep. Weiner charged that I waited to speak until the end of the debate. In fact, 11 members spoke after me, including eight Democrats.
By far the most outlandish thing to fall out of Rep. Weiner’s mouth recently is his accusation that I chose politics over providing health care for dying heroes. I lost over 150 friends and constituents on 9-11. I co-sponsored the bill and worked with Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler for five years to get it passed. I lobbied Republicans to support it. When that vote came, I voted for the bill, standing with Democrats, breaking with and criticizing Republicans.
Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I would never put politics ahead of this issue or allow dying emergency workers to suffer for the sake of politics.
This vital bill failed because of a political decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership to intentionally undercut the bill and make it impossible to pass. I call on Democratic leaders to bring the bill back up for what will be certain passage under a regular up-down majority vote.
Until they do so, cops and firefighters will continue to die without the health care they need.
Peter King is a Republican congressman from Long Island.