Steve Scott, Rep. Peter King

WCBS 880

Rep. King To Budget Director: Leave 9/11 Health Program Alone

March 05, 2018 - 4:26 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- “Leave Zadroga alone” – that was the call Monday from members of Congress from both political parties who oppose a plan to make the World Trade Center Health Program a standalone entity.

Among those members of Congress is Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-New York), who rallied in Washington Monday against the plans to reclassify the program – along with former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, and U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) and Carolyn Maloney (D-New York).

King spoke about his concerns with WCBS 880’s Steve Scott Monday afternoon. He explained that the Zadroga Act was first passed in 2010 with the condition that it would be funded five years, and then renewed in 2015 with provisions for 75 years’ worth of funding.

“It provides not just health care, but also preemptive health care for anyone who worked in the recovery after 9/11; anyone who was down there on the day of 9/11 and in the months afterwards, to anticipate any diseases they may have; to treat and deal with any diseases they have now; to provide treatment and care,” King said. “It’s really one-of-a-kind in the world.”

Currently, the World Trade Center Health Program that the Zadroga Act established falls under the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH.

“This is an agency of the federal government that deals with industrial-type illnesses – coal miners, for instance. It was set up for them originally. They’ve been administering it. The have the doctors. They’re working with local hospitals in New York. They have the experts, because these are very unique illnesses,” King said.

But Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney has proposed removing the World Trade Center Health Program from the oversight of NIOSH and having it “basically stand alone,” King said.

“There’s no reason for this. First of all, they would lose the expertise that they have – the institutional expertise they would have. There’s no problems with the program. There’s no allegations of impropriety; of mismanagement; of negligence,” King said. “This is one of the few federal programs that’s working as perfectly as any federal program could work.”

King said Mulvaney, who represented a South Carolina district in Congress until being named budget director for President Donald Trump, was opposed to the 9/11 Health Care Act from the beginning.

“He made these changes in the budget without talking to any of us who were involved in it, and basically what it does is it takes a program that’s working out of the unit it’s with now, puts it basically standalone – which would weaken it and put these lives at risk,” King said. “There’s no rationale. It’s never been discussed with anyone – no explanation, no reason, no excuse, no nothing.”

King said there could be concerns about problems with funding if the 9/11 health program is separated from NIOSH, but most importantly, the experts and institutional knowledge from which the program now benefits would all be lost.

He added that he and the other New York members of Congress fighting to keep the program under NIOSH have heard nothing from Mulvaney.

“We haven’t heard a word from Mulvaney, and so my goal right now is to just kill this in the Congress. Stop it right now. Defeat it. Bury it once and for all. And let me say, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney – it’s totally a bipartisan effort,” King said.

He noted how dire the situation is for many of those who are suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, such as leukemia, brain tumors and rare blood cancers.

“This is a horrible situation – men and women cut down in the prime of life; weakened in the prime of life,” King said. “And now to do anything that’s going to weaken and diminish their health care is absolutely unacceptable and scandalous.”

When asked why anyone would oppose funding the World Trade Center Health Program, King said it stems from “a mindset against New York” and an “ignorance” that has led to comments he finds insulting.

“I remember members of Congress saying this is a just way to sneak money into New York; to take care of lawyers; to take care of workers who were faking it; people trying to get money, you know, faking their illness,” he said. “It was disgraceful to hear some of the language – this anti-New York, inbred bias that many members of Congress in the South and the West have. I mean, they opposed it for years.”

King has said previously that he would take the issue directly to the Oval Office if he must.