Gillibrand’s Dubious Opportunity

After his much-discussed Q-and-A with Republicans last week, President Obama went before a more sympathetic audience this morning: Senate Democrats.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was given a chance to ask the president a question about health care for 9/11 responders. Not surprisingly, the president said he supports taking care of 9/11 responders.

But, as The Hill noted, the fact she got some floor time might not be a great sign. Others who were able to plug an issue included Harry Reid, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Blanche Lincoln and Barbara Boxer. All of whom are, to varying degrees, considered politically vulnerable this year.

Recently, the White House has tried to discourage Ms. Gillibrand’s potential challenger, Harold Ford Jr., and recently announced that presidential aide David Plouffe would headline a fund-raiser later this month.

Below is Senator Gillibrand’s exchange with the president, as sent by a spokesperson:

KG: Thank you, Mr. President. I have an issue I’d like to raise that is very important to every New Yorker and to many, many Americans. And that’s health care for our 9/11 responders and for all of the communities that live near Ground Zero. Now, these Americans hail from every one of the 50 states and every single congressional district in the entire United States. And now, because of exposure to toxins from the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, there’s about 20,000 people who are sick. Some of them gravely ill, suffering from serious health effects. Some are disabled, some have died. I’ve introduced legislation to provide permanent care and proper compensation for these Americans. And my question is: Would you today commit to working with Congress to pass comprehensive 9/11 – a comprehensive 9/11 health bill that’s fully paid for?

Obama: Well, I fully commit to working with you guys. Keep in mind that our budget already significantly increased funding precisely for this purpose. So I’m not just talking the talk, you know, we’ve been budgeting this as a top priority for the administration.

I confess, Kirsten, I have not looked at all the details of your legislation, but I know that not only you and Chuck but everybody here wants to make sure that those who showed such extraordinary courage and heroism during 9/11, that they are fittingly cared for and that’s going to be something that we are going to be very interested in working with you on. Alright?

KG: Thank you, Mr. President.



Gillibrand’s Dubious Opportunity