As you may have heard, on Friday the House of Representatives finally, a full two months after the fact, voted to greenlight nearly $10 billion in relief funds for victims of Superstorm Sandy. (Note that Katrina funds were approved 10 days after the fact.) More specifically, the House voted to extend the debt ceiling on FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program by $10 billion, the first installment of projected $60.4 billion relief package.
And not a moment too soon.
The fund, which is the primary disburser of federal relief money to individual disaster victims, is currently $20 billion in the hole and to date only 35,000 of the 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been processed, according to FEMA. That leaves 115,000 families out in the cold, and many of the 35,000 that have been approved have only received partial payments on their claims.
You would think, or at least hope, the House vote would've been unanimous, as it was in the Senate the week before, and yet the final tally 354-67, putting the lie to the old saying that goes: a small government conservative is just a big government liberal who hasn't had the shit kicked out of his state by a hurricane/tornado/flood yet. All the 'no' votes came from -- wait for it -- Republicans. Really, this is a new low for a party that has, time and again, proven that every time we thought the old low couldn't sink any lower it turns out we were wrong. It's like voting against tossing a life-preserver to a drowning man.
Out of the 67 GOP representatives that turned their back on the people of New York and New Jersey in their darkest hour, there are (at least) 10 that deserve dishonorable mention for going above and beyond the call of duty in their pitiless pursuit of cutthroat partisanship, not to mention their jaw-droppingly shameless hypocrisy and an appalling disregard for the abject suffering of tens of thousands of American citizens. They are, in particular order:
1. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
In a statement explaining his 'no' vote, the would-be Vice President of the United States insists he's "committed to quickly meeting the needs of the communities affected by the storm" but he simply could not bring himself to vote for a package larded with so much wasteful pork.
"The Senate bill is packed with funding for unrelated items such as commercial fisheries in American Samoa and roof repair of museums in Washington, D.C.," he said. "We need to ensure the necessary resources are provided in response to true emergency needs."
None of those projects were in the final version of the bill the House voted on Friday. How could the Chairman of the House Budget Committee not know that? He is either lying or voting against legislation he hasn't even bothered to read. In which case he's incompetent.
2. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)
Back in April of 2011, when Alabama was ravaged by a swarm of deadly tornadoes, Rep. Mo Brooks, had no problem with Federal assistance and even held town hall meetings to explain to constituents their "federal assistance rights."
"Some of it is in the form of loans, SBA long-term low-interest loans but there are also direct grants that you do not have to repay if you qualify, unemployment compensation, rents as you try to find a new place to live," said Brooks.
Wait, I thought government was the problem not the solution.
3. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA)
When Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008, Rep. Broun called him a "Marxist" and compared him to Hitler. But the following year when widespread flooding the American South resulted in 17 federal disaster declarations in Georgia, Broun had no problem asking the Obama administration for FEMA funds, and even complimented the administration's responsiveness.
"I applaud the excellent job of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's [...] response to last week's destructive storms," he declared in a press release posted to his website. "I am pleased by the cooperation of the federal, state, and local officials as well as the teamwork displayed by local residents who have stepped in to help their fellow citizens through the steps of recovery." Emphasis mine.
Broun, as you may recall, is the guy who called evolution and the Big Bang Theory "lies from the pit of hell" -- this from an M.D. who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Lord help us.
4. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)
Back in 2011, when the rain-swollen Mississippi river flooded vast stretches of Missouri, Graves demanded -- and received -- a federal emergency declaration from the Obama White House. "I urge the president to approve this assistance without delay," Graves wrote in a letter to President Obama posted to his website. "Many communities along the river have been stretched to the limit preparing for and fighting this unprecedented flood."
Gee, that last part sure sounds familiar.
5. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX)
Back in 2005, Marchant did not hesitate to vote 'yes' on a disaster supplemental package that provided $51.8 billion in emergency funds to aid to the Katrina relief effort. Emphasis mine. Back then, he also voted for measure that temporarily increased FEMA's borrowing authority to pay claims resulting from Hurricane Katrina, which, minus roughly $40 billion, is exactly the same measure he voted against on Friday. Unlike with Katrina, there are no Sandy victim intake centers in his district. So fuck 'em.
6. Rep. Joe 'YOU LIE!' Wilson (R-SC)
Wilson, along with two other Tea Party asshats from South Carolina, voted 'Fuck No!' on Friday, this despite the fact that South Carolina has had 13 major disaster declarations and two emergency declarations in the last 30 years, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The worst storm to ever hit the Palmetto State, Hurricane Hugo back in 1989, caused over $13 billion in damage and left nearly 60,000 people homeless.
Guess who picked up the tab?
And back in 2003 when the South Carolina suffered through a severe drought, all 46 counties in the Palmetto State were declared federal disaster zones at Wilson's urging. In 2005, he voted for a $10.5 billion Katrina relief package.
"The compassion, generosity, and solidarity of the American people during difficult times are one of our most cherished blessings as citizens of our great nation," Wilson said after the Katrina relief bill passed the House. "As we now face the severity of this historic natural disaster, Americans must do what we do best: help each other." Emphasis mine.
That was then and this is now.
7. Rep. Louie 'Gomer' Gohmert (R-TX)
Recently, Gohmert made headlines when, just two days after 20 six-year-olds were massacred with an assault rifle in Newtown, he went on Fox News and declared if only the principal had been packing an assault rifle in her desk, none of this would have happened. It's hard to say which is more depressing, that a sitting Congressman could be this confused about the difference between real life and a Dirty Harry movie or that a major television network would put this guy on the air two days after the second worst mass murder in American history.
It's curious that Gohmert has become such a disaster relief hardass in the last four years. Back in 2008, in the wake Hurricane Ike, the federal government couldn't spend enough on his constituents. After applying for and receiving individual assistance FEMA funds for four Texas counties, Gohmert went back to the public trough for more, urging FEMA to widen the number of counties in his district that qualified for relief.
If you require individual assistance, it is extremely important that you file a claim with FEMA," Gohmert wrote in an open letter to constituents. "Their instructions below are very long and sound too governmental, but they need to be followed to file claims. If you follow these instructions and still do not get treated fairly, you can contact my office for help.
Since Representative Gomer seems to know his way around a FEMA application, I would encourage everyone in the great states of New York and New Jersey to call his office if you need assistance. Or even if you don't and you just want to thank him for nothing. His number is (202) 225-3035.
8. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
Palazzo's 'Hell no!' vote on Superstorm Sandy relief comes just six months after he bragged to constituents that he had secured federal relief in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. "Congressman Steven Palazzo, Mississippi's Fourth Congressional District Representative, today welcomed news that a major disaster declaration had been issued for the state of Mississippi to help communities recover from Hurricane Isaac," reads a statement on his website. "We cannot thank the FEMA enough for their continued support."
You could have at least given it the old college try, Steve-O.
9. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Blackburn, who rates a "true blue" from the gay-hating golems at the Family Research Council, may have voted 'No!' to relief for families victimized by Superstorm Sandy on Friday, but she wasn't the proud disaster relief miser she is today. In the wake of the 2008 Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak Of ' (87 tornadoes across five states in one day!), she was calling for FEMA to broaden the scope of disaster relief eligibility to include the heirs of storm victims. "The families of the 33 Tennesseans killed during last year's storm experienced a great tragedy," she declared in a press release posted to her website. "The government should not compound their loss by refusing them assistance we all know they are entitled to."
Turns out, some entitlements are more entitled than others.
10. Rep. Doug Collins R-GA
On his first day as newly sworn in congressman from Georgia, Doug Collins voted to sandbag Superstorm Sandy relief. This from a man who serves as Wing Chaplain in the 94th Airlift Wing of the United States Air Force. He would do well to re-read his Bible before the next Sandy relief bill comes up for a vote, specifically John 3:17-18:
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
And maybe he could share some of those Jesus thoughts with his fellow House Republicans who had the courage of their convictions, the strength character and the moral clarity to say no to 140,000 families in their hour of need.