Getting ready for today’s Randi Rhodes Show, with lots to talk about!

Of course, we started the day with a loud bang (and John McCain’s still complaining about it) as President Obama signed the law repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Now, that’s the holiday spirit!

But there are still a few bills dangling as the GOP Senators keep complaining they have to work!  We should get some resolution today on the START Treaty, which made it through a cloture vote yesterday with the 67 votes needed for ratification of a treaty!

The big mystery at this hour is the fate of the 9-11 First Responders Health Care bill.  The truly heinous Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn (who happens to be a doctor by the way– doesn’t he remember his hipocratic oath? Perhaps he took the hypocrite’s oath instead) had been blocking it, claiming there were no committee hearings on it (YES,there were. He was on the HELP committee who debated it.  He just chose not to show up for it!), and that the cost is too high (for those selfless individuals who put their own safety at risk to help others in need – look in the mirror, you fool!).

Well, according to Greg Sargent at the Plum Line blog at the Washington Post, a compromise has been reached:

Here are the details of the deal, as provided by a Senate aide:

*Reduction in Costs. This agreement saved taxpayers $6.2 billion from the substitute amendment and $7.5 billion from the House-passed bill. In the deal, costs are reduced to $4.2 billion in the 10 year window and eliminated outside the 10-year window. Of that amount, $1.5 billion will go to health benefits, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation.

* Permanently Close the Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) after 5 years. The original bill kept the VCF open through 2031, making it extremely susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse and incurring significant long-term costs. The fund is now open only through 2016 and has language to expressly say that it is permanently closed at after 5 years.

*Limitations on Attorneys Fees. Places a hard cap for attorneys’ fees at 10 percent of the total award and allows the Special Master to reduce attorneys fees

[Coburn] believes are excessive.

* Prevents Reinstatement of Civil Claims. Prevent claimants who are rejected from the VCF from then pursuing a civil lawsuit. This is consistent with the earlier VCF policy.

*Limitation on Infrastructure Costs. Explicitly excludes construction and capital projects from health care spending in the bill.

*Commitment to ensure eligible individuals cannot “double-dip” on benefits. The Senators all agreed to get in writing from the Special Master that he will include workers compensation benefits in collateral sources of benefits that he must offset from potential compensation awards.

* More Accountability. Require claims-level data reporting to provide accountability and opportunity for oversight, as well as GAO reports to determine less expensive mechanisms to provide nationwide care, pharmaceutical access, and health information technology promotion.

I’m happy that this bill is coming to a vote, but cutting costs on healthcare for the people who ran in to the burning twin towers to help others, while not blinking an eye to cut taxes and increase our national debt by billions for the wealthiest Americans is a travesty.

In addition to those issues, we’ll touch on the few who were left out in the cold by the not-so-lame duck session: The DREAM Act kids and the 99ers who won’t even get coal in their stockings (because it might actually help them heat their homes, if they still have homes).

***Moments before hitting the air, the Senate passed the 911 First Responders health care bill by unanimous consent. And with VP Joe Biden presiding over the Senate, literally, they’re now voting on ratifying the New START Treaty.  FireDogLake’s David Dayen will join me to talk about today’s historic votes ****

Refugio Mata came to the US from Mexico when he was 14. Now a naturalized citizen, he works as an activist and community organizer.  He suggests instead of “illegal aliens” or “undocumented workers” we call them “economic refugees.”  He’ll fill us in on the plight of the DREAM Act kids.

Kim Doyle Wille is ineligible for unemployment benefits because, after she lost her job a few years ago, she started trying to drum up work for herself… making her technically unemployed.  BTW, that’s the same boat I’m in.  She’s been working tirelessly for the poor, hungry and unemployed in this country, trying to help get some help for the millions who’ve exhausted their unemployment benefits, known collectively as “The 99ers”.

We’ll spend hour two of today’s Randi Rhodes Show with John Nichols of The Nation, who will unveil his picks for The Most Valuable Progressives of 2010!

And we’ll delve back into the audio archives to remember some of the top news stories from April and May as we continue our rear view year in review…