It was unconscionable that it took so long, but House Republicans finally acted a week ago to deliver substantial aid to Northeastern states whose coastal areas were laid waste by Superstorm Sandy – nearly three months ago.
Question: Does anyone seriously think the Southern Republicans who were among the primary opponents of this bill won’t be pleading for relief when the next hurricane strikes their states? We hope Northeastern representatives won’t hold this against them when their people are suffering, but if they do manage to resist that urge, it won’t be because they weren’t tempted.
There are times when deficit spending is warranted, even when debt is already high. Wars and natural disasters are among those times, and Sandy was a calamity like no other for the Northeast.
Just as Congress quickly approved aid for areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina as well as other catastrophes, the Republican and Democratic residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas raked by Sandy had a right to expect that Congress would quickly do right by them. Congress didn’t.
Instead, it devolved into its usual partisan bickering, with tea party conservatives unable to distinguish between business as usual and a crisis.
We don’t have a problem with any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, making a case for clean legislation. It’s true that the Sandy bill contained unnecessary spending unrelated to that disaster, and that was worth noting and protesting.
But that’s how Congress has operated for generations. It would be worth changing that culture, and members of Congress should make the case. But the aftermath of a deadly and destructive storm was not the place to draw a line in the sand. If stuffing unrelated spending into the Sandy relief bill was irresponsible, blocking desperately needed aid for weeks and weeks was 10 times so.
It is incumbent upon House Speaker John Boehner to internalize the lessons from the two debacles his chamber has instigated, over tax policy and Sandy aid. In both cases, important legislation passed because he sidelined the extremists in his party and allowed Democrats and thinking Republicans to act together.
He will have to do a lot more of that over the coming two years if the nation is going to attend to the many issues that it faces.