Republican Running For Weiner’s Seat: Ground Zero Health Law Shouldn’t Cover Sickened Volunteers

Bob Turner, the Republican running to replace former Rep. Anthony Weiner (R-NY), said he thinks the law President Obama signed last year to provide health benefits to Ground Zero workers sicked by toxic debris went too far. In an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board, Turner offered reluctant support for the so-called Zadroga bill, but said it was “too broad” in covering volunteers along with paid workers:

“I probably couldn’t go home if I didn’t support the Zadroga bill. I have firemen in my family, but is that bill beyond criticism? No,” he said. […]

“I think it is a little too broad,” Turner said.

“My call would be to protect police, fire, emergency workers, construction workers, etc.

“If someone said, ‘I volunteered’ or walked through there, it’s just not the type,” added Turner, who faces Democrat David Weprin in the Sept. 13 special election.

The bill, named after slain NYPD Detective James Zadroga, sets aside funds to monitor the health of first responders and clean-up crews who toiled in the toxic debris of the collapsed World Trade Center towers. Volunteers played a critical role among the 40,000 people who worked at the site following the attacks, and some havealready died from illnesses contracted there. Others are struggling with illness from the site to this day. “That day, and for months after, there were no uniforms. Volunteers worked next to rescue crews for weeks,” John Feal, a Ground Zero worker turned activist, told the Daily News. Moreover, volunteers were, of course, not paid for their time nor covered by the health insurance policies police officers, firefighters and others enjoy.

Weiner was one of the Zadroga’s bill’s fiercest proponents, engaging in a heated House floor exchange with Rep. Pete King (R-NY) after Republicans nearly killed the bill during the lame duck session of Congress in December. But Turner’s stance is especially ironic considering that he’s made the terror attacks a central part of his campaign, exploiting the images of Ground Zero to attack his Democratic opponent’s support of the proposed Islamic community center near the site. “It’s been ten short years. Everyone remembers,” the ad’s narrator says.

“For Bob Turner to turn his back on those New Yorkers, but use images of the burning towers in campaign ads — a circus monkey can out-politic Bob Turner, he’s an embarrassment to the Republican Party,” Feal added.