Congressional Inaction, National Shame

There’s a $13.6 billion package of disaster relief money sitting on some shelf in a Congressional conference room, waiting to be passed. It includes hundreds of millions of aid money for farmers in south Georgia, as well as residents in north Florida, and Americans from Puerto Rico to Hawaii. But it’s been six months since Hurricane Michael made landfall as a (recently reclassified) Category Five Hurricane, wrecked Tyndall Air Force base, knocked down three-quarters of all the structures in Mexico Beach, and inflicted some $2.5 billion in devastation on the farms in south Georgia. Six months that people in Florida have been living in tents and farmers in Georgia have been going bankrupt. While FEMA has made some $1.1 billion available in grants and no-interest loans, most of the disaster relief package sits hostage to the only force more powerful than a CAT5 storm: congressional gridlock and partisan finger pointing.

While there’s plenty in Washington to be outraged at these days, this should be at the top of the list. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, told the Valdosta Daily Times that both sides are to blame: “He said the Republican side of the aisle failed to provide a formal request for disaster assistance, while the Democrats have used Puerto Rico as an excuse not to provide disaster relief for the areas that need it.”

Georgia Senator David Perdue, though, used Fox News to blame his Democrat colleagues by name and process: “Last December, disaster aid got caught up in the border security debate and was left out of the spending bill. Senate Republicans went back to Senate Democrats to see what was needed in order to make a deal on disaster relief as soon as possible.

It was determined that $600 million to extend the food assistance program in Puerto Rico was most critical since the program was set to expire at the end of March.

I personally brought this updated request to the president, and he agreed to it.

We gave Democrats exactly what they asked for, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., decided to change course and hold disaster relief victims hostage in a misguided effort to extract concessions from Republicans on a number of unrelated topics, including border security.

Schumer watched carefully as Democratic senators cast their votes on the disaster relief bill. After the senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, voted “yes” on the bill – which includes billions for her state – the Democratic leader pulled her aside and then she switched her vote to “no.” At the same time, the other Democratic senator from California, Kamala Harris, was in Nevada campaigning for president and missed the vote entirely.” 

Okay. Partisan points scored: 100! Actual good done: <null>

Relief to those whose businesses have been destroyed and homes have been flattened by natural disasters ought to have a higher priority than parsing the Mueller Report, playing semantic games about “wall” vs. “barrier,” or arguing how high a high crime has to be. Bragging to your fans about how much worse the other team is stupidly boring and counterproductive.

At its most basic level, our government was formed to protect the governed. It’s to our national shame that Congress is proving that it can’t protect the people it is supposed to serve, and if it can’t perform that most basic fucntion -in South Georgia, or Puerto Rico or Florida or anywhere- then what good are any of them?


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