Americans have long been known to be the most generous of people. When there is a famine in a far-off spot in the world, or a disaster in our country, as a people we are always quick to open our wallets and provide whatever aid we can to render assistance. We’ve been known to roll up our sleeves for impromptu blood drives, pack trailers full of supplies and head off to where they’re needed, and do so many other things to help people. It is the best of the American spirit to be there when people need it. Which is why the recent actions of two congressional Republicans – Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Chip Roy (R-Texas) and John Rose (R-Tenn.) – stand in sharp contrast to what so many of their fellow citizens have done on so many other occasions.
Despite the wide margins and bipartisan approval of their colleagues in Congress, these members have brought a $19.1 billion disaster aid package to a grinding halt. These are funds meant to do any number of things to make communities whole again from various disastrous circumstances. From fires and floods, to killer winds and monster storms, there is no doubt the culprit was Mother Nature and all of her unbridled fury – but it’s petty pandering politics that’s the most revolting.
These members have shared their concern over the national debt and the National Flood Insurance Program as well as the lack of funds for President Trump’s border wall as part of their reasons for blocking the disaster aid from going forward for the president’s signature. Whether they are catering to the president’s passion for his wall or looking to improve their conservative rankings on another ridiculous political scorecard, their gutless leadership at the 11th hour is devoid of an American spirit of being there when needed most.
In recent days, large swaths of the country have been struck horrific tornadoes and floodwaters that have laid ruin to parts of Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Arkansas, Oklahoma, etc. As much as the president and his supporters are quick to decry “fake news,” it’s hard to call “11 straight days of tornadoes” some mainstream media conspiracy to dupe Americans into more government spending when the places that have been destroyed are some of the same states that voted for the president.
Who gets aid and disaster assistance should never, EVER depend upon who got picked by those voters. We are all Americans, and as that quintessential NYC phrase goes, “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!” Which is why these actions have appropriately earned the ire of both political parties and disgust of so many others.
For all of these three members’ professed concern over the national debt, the National Flood Insurance Program and the president’s border wall, their in-the-trenches leadership on these issues is as empty as their efforts to shape this disaster assistance bill before it hit the congressional dock for consideration. Press releases, cable news shots, and chest-thumping caucus memberships never brought aid to anyone except maybe to individual poll numbers that cater more to a singular base, than to being a big base of support to others when it’s needed.
It’s not as if the home states of these members have been immune to disasters nor ever needed federal disaster assistance. In fact, these states have more than borne the wrath and fury of Mother Nature in catastrophic ways over the past decade. On those occasions, bipartisan disaster assistance has been issued and been there to aid citizens and communities with their recoveries. But the actions of Massie, Roy and Rose, as well as the president’s recent rhetoric decrying additional aid to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, point to an increasing politicization of disaster assistance. That’s something that needs to stop on both sides of the aisle, both sides of Congress and both the Congress and Executive Branch.
Strong oversight, thorough follow-through, firm accountability, tough questions and transparent accounting are all basics that should be part of any disaster aid package. But so should be the promise that disaster aid will be there when it is needed. In the case of these congressmen, they are emblematic of a culture of indifference when the disaster victim is someone other than oneself.
That’s something I hope their constituents will remember during the next election cycle, or at least something they will think of if a disaster were to come through their communities and federal assistance intended for them was halted by three obscure congressional members looking for attention.
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