Today, the House of Representatives is scheduled to engage in Round 2 of Sandy relief as members consider the fate of a remaining $50.7 billion for residents ravaged by the superstorm that hit the Northeast 10 weeks ago.
The holdup, we're told, has been over "pork" in the package approved by the Senate last month, but it's more than just claims of the bill's boondoggling. It's also the mindboggling behavior of Congress, including some California representatives, and the dysfunctional system in which they pretend to serve us.
The ruckus began shortly after the new year. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Rep. Peter King hammered fellow Republicans for a decision to pull a bill providing $9.7 billion for Sandy victims.
In reaction, California Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, pointedly told the hosts on "Fox & Friends," "Your two senators packed this with pork," referring to New York Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. "They had the opportunity to have a $27 (billion) to $30 billion dollar legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it," Issa said.
The Weekly Standard, a primary voice for conservative thought, concurred. Indeed, when the publication first reported in December on the bill's pork, it framed the markup as "showing where Democrats crossed off lines that would've limited the Sandy bill to only providing funds only for the recovery from Hurricane Sandy."
Yes, originally, funding was only for Sandy victims. The markup added pork for "storm events that occurred in 2012 along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast that were affected by hurricanes Sandy and Isaac."
The states graced with the Senate's extra-special benevolence included Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana. Why would Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid provide such perks for these red states? Because each is represented by two Republican senators, except for Louisiana, which has one GOP senator. Simply put, Reid used pork to bribe seven Republican senators so that a bill under the guise of storm relief for two blue states would be filibuster-proof.
Wait: You're saying lawmakers won't approve something for someone else unless there's something in it for them? Why else would Reid feel the need to include pork to make the bill filibuster-proof? Since when must disaster relief be filibuster-proof?
If Republicans are such fiscal conservatives, why didn't these seven GOP senators insist that the pork for their districts be removed from the bill?
All this conservative rumpus about wasteful Democrats packing a bill with pork, yet no self-righteous indignation over these seven senators from either the the Weekly Standard or Issa, or the so-called deficit hawks in the House? Where is their outrage?
When House Speaker John Boehner scheduled a House vote for the first $9.7 billion in aid to Sandy victims, the bill had no pork. It was two pages long. Issa, a past beneficiary of pork, voted for it. Yet 67 Republicans voted against it, including Tom McClintock and Orange County's Ed Royce.
The bill simply gave more authority to the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury to pay claims by people who had been paying their flood insurance premiums. This wasn't a handout. It was people getting what they'd paid for.
For today's drama, McClintock has signed on to a bill that would offset some Sandy funding with an across-the-board discretionary spending cut of 1.6 percent.
I get that in spirit, but did House members ever suggest that when federal aid was being allocated for Katrina, or Joplin, Mo.? Thirty-seven of the House Republicans who opposed Sandy relief supported disaster aid for their home states, records show. Did anyone ask for offsets then?
During the last Congress' tenure, records show the United States experienced 331 federal disaster declarations, not counting Sandy. How many of those came with calls from House Republicans to offset relief spending with discretionary cuts?
Why are we making this stink while people are struggling to recover in this case from an unprecedented event? Or is this just "never let a good crisis go to waste"? Queries to both Issa's and McClintock's offices went unanswered.
I'm all for clean bills. One issue, one bill, including pork projects. Where is legislation from McClintock or fellow tea party House members for that? Instead, the 112th Congress passed: 46 bills on abortion, 113 bills on religion, 73 bills on family relationships, 36 bills on marriage, 72 bills on firearms, 604 bills on taxation and 437 bills on government investigations. How many dollars did those efforts cost us?
The day before the House approved $9.7 billion for Sandy victims, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare, which the Supreme Court has upheld and which states are now busily implementing.
Goodness, are these people doubling down on stupid?