Written By: Shaw Friedman
There comes a time in every elected official’s career when they’ve got to stand up and do the right thing, politics or ideology be damned. The recent vote that extended the country’s debt limit while passing desperately needed hurricane relief was one such vote and on that standard, Reps. Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Jackie Walorski all failed the test miserably.
It doesn’t take Democrats like myself to call them out. I leave that to one of their fellow Republican members of the U.S. House – Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas who serves as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who said very clearly to his fellow members of the Republican caucus that a “yes” vote was absolutely needed for this country’s disaster and relief fund “to keep it solvent because FEMA is going through half a billion dollars a day” in Texas and would soon be forced to tend to suffering and flooding in Florida. Put simply, the GOP head of Homeland Security called a vote against this package “unconscionable.”
As McCaul put it so well, “when I had people dying and hurting in my home state, it was my duty and moral obligation to help them.” Todd, Luke and Jackie oughta to look in the mirror and ask themselves how they are going to explain their votes the next time they see Chairman McCaul or any other members from Florida or Texas in the hallway.
It’s clear that these three members of Congress representing parts of Indiana clearly let crude and cynical politics drive their decision-making, to the point that they were among just 90 members of the U.S. House who voted against much-needed hurricane relief.
It was clear to all but the most rigid, unbending ideologues that FEMA’s emergency relief funds had been taxed beyond belief with the damage and destruction wrought on the Texas coast by Hurricane Harvey, and that’s why even Republican members of Congress from Indiana like Susan Brooks and Larry Bucshon put aside their understandable concerns over deficit reduction, by voting for the $15.25 billion package, which also increased the nation’s debt limit and funded the government for the next few months.
Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young, seeing that the President Trump had backed the bill after his meeting with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Leader Pelosi, joined a bi-partisan coalition of U.S. senators – some 83 in all – to pass the aid package. Even deficit hawks like Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman who now serves as U.S. budget director, pleaded with his fellow Republicans in caucus to pass the much-needed aid package.
Raw, partisan politics aside, every one of us has to hope that in times of national crisis, when there’s a chance for elected officials to alleviate the suffering and misery of our fellow citizens in places like Texas and California through an emergency relief package, those same elected officials will join together and do “the right thing.”
Fortunately, some 316 members of the U.S. House, including solid majorities from both parties, voted for this desperately needed aid package. They knew that issues of debt reduction could certainly be part of any upcoming debate on tax reform or infrastructure spending or even on various defense procurement bills.
But when it comes to the most basic function of our federal government – providing for the security and safety of our citizens – one would think that the politics would stop for folks like Rokita, Messer and Walorski. Sadly, voting against a package backed by President Trump and favored by bipartisan majorities in both the Senate and House, shows they’ve now allowed crude political maneuvering to overcome any sense of what’s in the best interest of their fellow citizens or the “common good.”
As Republican Mike McCaul stated, this bill was needed to quickly get relief money out to victims of Hurricane Harvey, but another spending bill will be needed soon to help victims of Hurricane Irma, as “this was just a down payment to keep the disaster relief fund afloat.”
Reps. Rokita, Messer and Walorski should have to answer to their constituents for a vote that was clearly out of the Hoosier mainstream; a mainstream that has always believed that the public sector needs to stand up and be counted in times of crisis or emergency. It was indeed an “unconscionable” vote, as Republican McCaul put so well, and it will stand as one of the darkest stains on the legislative record of all three members of Congress.
Shaw R. Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a longtime HPI contributor.
This article was written for Howey Politics (Sept. 28th Release, pg. 14). Find more information & articles at this link.