In politics, as in most things, it’s not about the guts of an issue -- what’s good or bad about it -- but how the guts look. Seasoned viewers of politics know making law is akin to making sausage. Not a pretty sight. But just as the new year dawned, House Republicans brought out the meat grinders, stuffer machines and casings for all to see. The House GOP majority allowed itself to get caught up in yet another example that reinforces the impression that it cares more about ideology than real people in need.
As House Republicans were debating which part of the humble pie they would eat in the fiscal cliff debate, there was another bill, $60 billion in disaster relief for 11 states and the District of Columbia hit by Hurricane Sandy, needing approval -- a vote that did not happen.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went ballistic, and he’s a Republican. “Last night, the House majority failed that most basic test of public service,” he said, “and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state. ... It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.” He went on to say, “There’s only one group to blame ... the House majority, and their Speaker, John Boehner.”
Rep. Peter King, Republican of Long Island, told CNN, “I would say the Republican Party has said it is the party of family values. Last night it turned its back on the most essential value of all, and that is to provide food, shelter, clothing and relief for people who have been hit by a natural disaster.”
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Boehner, backpedaling as fast as possible, promised a $9.7 billion package of aid would be voted on Friday. It passed 354-67. A $51 billion package will be presented by Jan. 15.
So what did House Republicans gain by delaying the vote by a couple of days other than raising the ire of residents in the impacted states and placing targets on the backs of the few remaining Republicans representing the region? Obviously they didn’t fear the overwhelmingly Democratic New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents or they would not have left them waiting 66 days and counting for relief with more delays to come. Boehner kept his job as speaker in the 113th Congress with only 12 defectors because no one else wanted to herd masochistic cats.
It’s not what they gained, it’s what they lost with this pointless exercise. They have left constituents with the distinct impression that one party helps people in need and the other is a party of we-could-care-less and who would put people’s welfare on the line to make a political point.
In another decision that defies logic, House Republicans also failed to extend the Violence Against Women Act. They let it die without a vote. Thus the conversation about what constitutes rape -- at least among male GOP members -- will continue, reinforcing the “war on women” theme that was used so effectively against them during the last election cycle.