Firefighters union presses GOP candidates on 9/11 health benefits

Nov 9, 2015
In The News

A group of 9/11 first responders who have been diagnosed with cancer and other diseases are putting Republican presidential candidates on the hot seat.

The International Association of Fire Fighters will run a political advertisement Tuesday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, pressuring the presidential candidates to extend healthcare benefits for these first responders.

The ad from the labor union will coincide with the GOP presidential debate, where 9/11 advocates hope to raise awareness about the expiring healthcare benefits for first responders.

“A question worth asking in tonight’s presidential debate: Where do you stand on the 9/11 Health & Compensation Act?” the ad reads.

“The stance of presidential candidates on this issue will tell us a lot about who they are and how much they value the life-saving work of the great patriots who were there when our country needed them the most,” it continues.

The healthcare fund for the firefighters and police officers that are sick as a result of the exposure they had to toxic chemicals while responding to the terrorist attacks began to expire in October. More than 70,000 first responders depend on these medical benefits, according to the firefighters union.

The political ad will target the GOP senators — more so than the governors — at the debate to see whether they would vote to extend the benefits. Four Senate Republicans are running for president: Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is pushing legislation that would reinstate the benefits for these first responders. The bill has 246 co-sponsors in the House and is backed by a number of Republicans.

Last week, Maloney rallied with firefighters and other lawmakers in Manhattan to extend the benefits.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is pushing a companion bill that has also attracted Republican support. Of the four presidential candidates, only Graham has signed on as a co-sponsor.

Despite the bipartisan support, neither piece of legislation has seen floor action in Congress.