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Senate Republicans Nickel and Diming Sandy Relief

While the nonsense continues on the fiscal slope, which increasingly looks like something the nation will have to weather, the Senate has been working on an appropriation for states suffering from the disaster caused by Hurricane Sandy. The parallel has to be understood: in one part of Washington, they’re trying to put in a deficit deal to replace politically driven forced austerity, and in another part, they’re trying to respond to a national emergency the way the federal government must in these cases, by spending money. Look at these two things together and you’ll understand a lot about Washington – the compartmentalization, the forced blindness, the lack of knowledge about the economy, everything.

And both sides of the Senate are taking up their predictable positions in the matter. Specifically, Senate Republicans want to nickel and dime disaster relief victims.

Republicans in the Senate, seeking to substantially trim a Hurricane Sandy aid package being sought by Democrats, are planning to unveil a $23.8 billion emergency spending plan to finance the recovery efforts of states devastated by the storm.

The move by Republicans comes as the Senate has opened debate on a $60.4 billion aid bill brought by Democratic leaders. Democrats largely based their proposal on one that President Obama sent to Congress nearly two weeks ago.

The alternative aid package is being introduced by Senator Dan Coats, Republican of Indiana. Democrats say it is a token proposal intended to give cover to Republicans who will not vote for the larger bill.

That’s about the size of it.

Fortunately for Senate Republicans, none of them hail from states most particularly affected by Hurricane Sandy. So this becomes a no-brainer to them, since they never feel anything resembling compassion unless trouble befalls them or a member of their family.

The sad fact is that it’s overwhelmingly likely that Congress ends up appropriating $0.00 to New York, New Jersey and the other states suffering in the aftermath of Sandy. It’s not anywhere close to the radar screen in the House, and the Senate has this $40 billion divide. So everyone’s working hard to figure out how best to cut spending and raise taxes, to avoid a program of spending cuts and tax increases, which people favoring a fiscal slope deal don’t even seem to understand. But we’ve completely severed the relationship between government and its responsibilities, and so several states that were drowned won’t see anything in the way of restitution.

One of the more disgusting things the President said in a long time was at yesterday’s press conference, when he appealed to lawmakers to pass a deficit deal because the country has been through so much. So, cut Social Security benefits because everyone’s sad about hurricanes and school shootings. The quote was, “When you think about what we’ve gone through over the last couple months — a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory — the country deserves us to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good.” Um, Congress can’t even pass legislation RESPONDING to those events! Which, by the way, would involve doing the OPPOSITE of what the President things would serve the greater good; namely, spending money, rather than “smartly” cutting it, to address human needs.

Photo by Mike (Inbet_1979) under Creative Commons license.

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David Dayen

David Dayen