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People who suffer from asthma often say an attack feels like breathing through a pool of water or with a pillow covering their face. Unfortunately, millions of Americans know all too well what that's like.

In the United States, asthma is a bona fide public health epidemic: 17 million adults and 7 million children suffer from the disease. Every year, our society pays in excess of $53 billion to treat it. Millions of asthmatics, including hundreds of thousands of kids, make visits to the emergency room for medical attention. And in thousands of severe cases, people die.

As the threat of a total federal government shutdown hangs over the country, leaders in Congress and the White House continue eleventh-hour emergency negotiations to reach a compromise before time runs out on keeping our government funded and averting a costly and potentially disastrous government shutdown.

The Senate just voted to reject four—count 'em 1-2-3-4—bad amendments that would strangle and block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from being able to limit dangerous carbon dioxide pollution from the nation's biggest polluters.

These Dirty Air Acts went down in the upper chamber today because enough of the Senate still obviously believes that the well-being, future and health of Americans are more important than corporate special interests.

The Senate votes tomorrow on four pieces of legislation that all aim to block or delay Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action to reduce the carbon dioxide pollution of the nation's biggest polluters. These polluters have convinced their friends in Congress to author a wave of bills exempting them from strong air pollution limits—they are the Dirty Air Acts we've been warning you about for months.

As I write this, the Senate is debating an amendment to a small business bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's biggest polluters.

On a day when every resident of the Pacific Rim is grateful for advanced warning systems, we are reminded of the essential services that government agencies provide. Certainly, fishermen in California who got their boats out of the water this morning as the Japanese tsunami approached are grateful for those who work around-the-clock to protect lives and property.

But essential services now face the chopping block in Washington, DC.

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