Wednesday, September 07, 2011


The New York Times points out that the idea of demanding offsets for disaster relief suddenly doesn't seem so swell to Republican members of Congress when the relief is needed in their own districts, as it is right now, in many cases, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene:

... The House majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, and other Republicans have suggested that any disaster aid the government distributes should be offset by an equal amount in spending cuts to keep the federal deficit from growing.

But with Congress returning this week from its summer recess, House Republicans from flood-damaged areas are rejecting that position, saying that helping people whose lives have been upended by the storm should take precedent over managing the budget deficit.

The reaction is particularly noteworthy because it is coming from members of the House Republican freshman class, a group that swept into office last year on a platform of reducing the federal debt and the size of government....

Michael G. Grimm, a first-term Republican representing Staten Island, where many homes were flooded by the storm, strongly disagreed with the notion of delaying aid to find cuts elsewhere in the budget.

"You can't put a number on keeping citizens safe," said Mr. Grimm, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative. "It's something the federal government must do. For example, if we're attacked, we wouldn't hold a budgetary meeting."

(I'm not sure I accept that as a blanket statement -- if we were attacked with a Democrat as president, I think we might. We certainly might if the president wanted to spend money that didn't involve killing, incarcerating, surveilling, or torturing brown people. Of course, such hearings would probably have to come after the hearings on the president's culpability in allowing the attack to happen, and possibly the impeachment process.)

Nan Hayworth, a Republican freshman representing areas north of New York City who won her seat with strong Tea Party support, also sees no connection between disaster aid and spending cuts, according to her spokesman, Nathaniel Sillin.

"They are two separate issues," he said....

Um, they weren't two separate issues for Hayworth a week ago:

Hayworth, who represents a portion of New York that the hurricane hit, said Congress has to have budget cuts before it allocates more disaster aid because the "challenges we face with the national budget have not changed," and likened it to a family skipping a vacation:
Only days after a record-setting storm destroyed her district, Rep. Nan Hayworth and her House colleagues threatened to withhold disaster money if lawmakers don't cut additional spending from the federal budget. "We're facing a natural disaster in the middle of an economic disaster," Hayworth said Wednesday. "Certainly, the challenges we face with the national budget have not changed."

Hayworth, R-Mount Kisco, said she would only vote to replenish the federal disaster fund if new spending was offset by budget cuts. She said those cuts should come from "non-defense discretionary spending." Hayworth likened her position to a family skipping vacation if it was overwhelmed by bills. "We have to control spending," she said. "There's no question about it." ...

I guess she subsequently changed her mind, or felt the need to "clarify" her stance.

Of course, this is good-cop/bad-cop stuff -- Cantor continues to offer the reddest meat as a way of rallying the most empathy-deprived wingnut voters, and Republican officeholders in districts that are actually affected appeal to their voters by acting like decent humans.

What I want to hear in tonight's debate is a question for Rick Perry, who hasn't met very many extreme right-wing issue positions he doesn't like: Governor Perry, wildfires have devastated parts of your state. You left the campaign trail recently to view the damage. Should Congress withhold federal disaster relief for Texas until offsetting spending cuts are approved?

I'd like to hear every candidate's answer to that, in fact.