So good news! The appropriations for Sandy relief finally was passed by the House. Granted this is something that should have been passed in mid-November at the latest and people and businesses have been hurt by this delay in funding. But it finally passed the House and the funding for relief and reconstruction of the hardest hits parts of the tri-state area has been secured.
That being said, 179 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted against the bill which shouldn't have even been a controversial bill in the first place. When I saw that result I immediately wanted to know who these people were and where they came from. How many of these people represented areas prone to natural disasters? When I matched the members of congress with their states many of them were from states that frequently get hit by hurricanes. Another congressman that voted no represents the city of Joplin, Missouri that was obliterated by a F5 tornado in 2011. The list and further analysis lies below the fold.
Here's the list of Reps that voted no organized by state. All are Republicans except Jim Cooper:
Alabama: 4That's a pretty lengthy wall of shame to parse through. Where to begin? Why don't we start with all of the Republicans that supported disaster relief funding for Hurricane Katrina ten days after it hit and opposed relief for Sandy two and a half months after it hit. These 55 members of Congress were happy to fund the disaster relief on the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit in 2005 but not so much when it came to Sandy in the northeast last year (organized by state):
Duncan Hunter Jr
New Mexico: 1
North Carolina: 9
South Carolina: 5
South Dakota: 1
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Alabama:There were a few members of Congress who were at least consistent with their heartlessness and opposed both Katrina and Sandy Aid:
Cathy McMorris Rogers
Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)Another observation I had when digging into the details of this vote was that many of the Republicans that opposed this legislation were relatively new to Congress and I think that had a big influence on their vote. When I looked at who from very red states opposed the Sandy relief, I found something quite interesting: Lets take a look at how the Louisiana delegation voted:
Joe Barton (R-TX)
Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
Steve King (R-IA)
LA-01: Steve Scalise (R) voted no, first elected 2008Lets take a look at another red state, Oklahoma:
LA-02: Cedric Richmond (D) voted yes, first elected 2010
LA-03: Charles Boustany (R) voted yes, first elected 2004
LA-04: John Fleming (R) voted no, first elected 2008
LA-05: Rodney Alexander (R) voted yes, first elected 2002
LA-06: Bill Cassidy (R) voted no, first elected 2008
OK-01: Jim Bridenstine (R) voted no, first elected 2012Notice a pattern? The Republicans that were elected post-Katrina opposed aid for Sandy while the ones that were in Congress when Katrina hit voted yes. Only 62 of the 180 members of Congress that opposed the Sandy bill were even in Congress in 2005 when Katrina hit. I think that really says something about how much further right wing the newer crop of Republicans are that have come in since then.
OK-02: Markwayne Mullin (R) voted no, first elected 2012
OK-03: Frank Lucas (R) voted yes, first elected 2002
OK-04: Tom Cole (R) voted yes, first elected 2002
OK-05: James Lankford (R) voted no, first elected 2012
If you tally up the no votes for Sandy relief, 72 of those votes come from the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. All of those states are in the south and border either the Atlantic Ocean and/or the Gulf of Mexico and all have seen their share of bad hurricanes over the years. I would ask of all of those members of Congress if they would show the same principles and oppose disaster relief funding if a Sandy-like storm wreaked havoc in their districts.
A grand total of 33 no votes came from the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. This region is known to meteorologists as "Tornado Alley" because tornadoes happen quite often in those states. If a F5 tornado like the one that devastated Joplin, Missouri devastated one of their districts instead, would those members of Congress have strong enough conservative principles to stand up on the House floor and demand that their district get no disaster relief? Speaking of Joplin, I wonder how their congressman voted? Joplin is in the district of Billy Long and he voted no on the Sandy package.
The fact is that natural disasters can occur in every part of the country. We can't control when extreme weather or plate tectonics will rear their ugly heads but what we can do is invest in designing our public infrastructure in a way that can better withstand natural disasters. We can't stop a hurricane or an earthquake from happening but we can help people who have lost everything get back on their feet. Nature can wreak havoc anywhere in the country and we expect that when we're the ones that are the victims of nature's wrath that the rest of the country will help out a little. After all, they would do the same if the situation were reversed wouldn't they? This is the very reason why disaster relief bills were non-controversial bills up until now and why they should be again. Additionally, a good chunk of the funding is this package is going towards making sure our public infrastructure can better withstand another Sandy. That is an investment that will ultimately save money in the future if the area is hit by another superstorm. By opposing that investment now, these reps are voting just to make future disasters more costly than they are now.
I think throughout all of this there might have been one far-right congressman who learned this lesson the hard way. Believe it or not there was one congressman that voted against disaster relief for Katrina but voted for disaster relief for Sandy. That would be my congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey. He flirted with the idea of opposing Sandy relief this time around but he realized (I hope) that there would be political hell to pay for opposing disaster relief when that disaster hit his own district. When push came to shove, when the disaster was happening in his own backyard he ultimately voted in the interests of the people that elected him much like I think any member of Congress would do and should do in his situation.