NJ-5: Debate Flare-Up Over Funding for 911 First Responders

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. — One bitter collision in today’s CD5 debate between U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett and Josh Gottheimer had to do with an exchange at a town hall Garrett conducted in 2015, in which a 911 first responder confronted the Republican over why he refused to back the Zadruga Act.

The act expands death benefits to Ground Zero workers who die from cancer or respiratory diseases.

At the town hall in question, Jamie Hazen of Jersey City identified himself as a 911 first responder who is ill. “I came because I want to understand where you’re coming from,” said Hazen. “You’re the only congressman from New Jersey and New York” who did not support the Zadruga Act. “Why won’t you pick up the phone and ask Pete King right now and co-sponsor the bill?”

Garrett shot back at the mic.

“I was a co-sponsor of the original legislation,” said the Republican congressman. “What happened was they take a clear simple piece of legislation and they mess it up change it with a funding mechanism… that caused some of us some heartburn. That’s one of the most frustrating aspects of Washington and the legislative process. the bills we have are not single-subject bills.”

In this morning’s debate, Gottheimer slammed Garrett for talking about heartburn when Hazen asked his question about the bill. Gottheimer implied that the Zadruga Act itself and what it aims to achieve caused Garrett heartburn, but Garrett described a process, which he claimed drove him away from backing the bill.

“Josh, you really should be careful when you lie like that. I never said those words,” Garrett said.

“I’ll show you the video,” Gottheimer insisted.

The disagreement highlighted a key contrast between the two candidates, as Garrett demonstrated his willingness to vote against a bill that has good components in it but, in his view, is ultimately compromised by too many add-ons, while Gottheimer promises to prioritize first responders, apparently even with bills that are far from perfect.

The specific exchange between Hazen and Garrett occurs at the 11:30 mark of the video posted below:

 

 

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