Washington – The Senate today effectively killed the so-called “Breathing is a Privilege” bill, originally put forward by House Republicans and passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week. The bill was defeated in a 52-48 vote, with Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska bucking his party to vote in its favor.
The bill would have disallowed every American except the top two percent of earners from seeking access to oxygen. National Guard troops would have been tasked with seizing all available oxygen from around the country and storing it in locked, sealed containers. Armed guards would stand watch at each supply center.
Any American declared ineligible, and not in possession of an Oxygen Access card, would have been denied oxygen, beginning on February 8, 2012.
Experts said that if the bill had managed to pass, the country’s borders would have needed to be sealed off, so that a mass exodus did not occur once people realized they would run out of oxygen, and attempted to go elsewhere to get some.
President Obama faced criticism in the run-up to the Senate vote for not saying conclusively whether or not he would veto the bill, were it to come across his desk. He is no longer faced with such a dilemma.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, in supporting passage of the bill, “This bill is admittedly strong and unyielding, but it is necessary. No longer can we live in the welfare state of America, where anyone can receive oxygen, just because they wish to breathe. There have to be limits.”
But some Senate Democrats saw the bill differently. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he could not support the bill, though part of him agreed with its necessity.
“Although I see the logic behind this bill, and the thinking that went into its drafting,” Reid said, “I must draw the line at letting the majority of Americans die, due to lack of available oxygen. I urge my fellow Senators to vote no on this motion, if no other reason than most people in their constituencies will die if it passes.”
Following the vote, Reid admitted the vote was “closer than he would have liked,” but refused to discuss Sen. Nelson’s possible reasons for crossing the aisle. “I respect Senator Nelson very much, but of course, I’m very concerned with the current climate, yes,” Reid said. “Very concerned. Especially with things like the ‘Extermination of the Poverty-Stricken’ bill, which is coming up for a vote next month. I think that has a real shot at passage.”
Republicans, for their part, were celebrating.
“Look, three votes is awfully close, ” said Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), a supporter of the bill. “And it’s one more than we thought we could count on. So, obviously we’re doing something right, and we have to keep doing it. We almost got this one through, and this kills almost everyone. So I’m optimistic about our chances in the future.”