General News and Politics By Jim Barber, Camp Verde, Arizona Current news and political discussion
Sunday, January 13, 2013
THE COOKIE JAR WAS EMPTY
Senate Democrats put their hands into the cookie jar and came up empty. In a rare display of backbone, Republican House leadership refused to be intimidated into passing a Senate bill calling for $60 billion in "relief" for Hurricane Sandy victims. In truth, the bill was an insult to the storm victims, a pork-laden farce feeding off the misery of those who have lost so much in the disaster.
The rain had hardly stopped falling on the east coast when the $60 billion figure was first floated as the amount that could be safely demanded, with the pretext that it was required to rebuild those areas hit hardest by Sandy. Remembering Rahm Emanuel's battle cry, "Never let a good crisis go to waste", Democrats did a few quick calculations and estimated that they could squeeze a good $30 billion, or more, out of this one. And squeeze they did. The primary bill contained about $27 billion dedicated to the stricken areas, only a third of which was destined to be spent this year. Then came $33 billion "emergency funding" that had little or nothing to do with the hurricane. The list included $2 million for roof maintenance for the Smithsonian, $60 million for forest restoration on private land - $23 million to plant trees in Ohio alone, $188 million to Amtrak, $348 million to the Park Service, $150 million to Alaska fisheries and $600 million to the EPA! The Corps of Engineers was written in for several hundred million, unasked for and not specified to anything in particular. I suspect that those who put it in the bill had some favorite supporters in mind, however, that would benefit from the largesse. A Wall Street Journal article pointed out "about $17 billion for liberal activists under the guise of 'community development' funds and so-called social service grants."
To his credit, House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring the bill up for a vote before the 112th Congress ended. Instead, he promised to pull the $9.8 billion out of the bill that was actually targeted for immediate relief of the storm victims and bring it up for passage on the first day of the new Congress (which he did, and which was passed both Houses and signed by Obama immediately). The Democrats were outraged and went on a tear, ranting, weeping and blowing snot all over the area. It was to be expected. They are not used to being denied.
To their discredit, both Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and Gov. Chris Christie, led with their mouths instead of their brains, publicly harshly chastising the Speaker for not rushing the abomination of a bill through the House. They both owe Speaker Boehner a public apology. As much as I like both politicians, they damaged their own party by reacting before they knew all the facts. Both should have known, instinctively, that relief funds would be voted through the system in short order. But after having just taken a drubbing and having higher taxes crammed down their throats, this was the first chance for the Republicans to slow down the express train of government spending. Boehner did the right thing. Let's hope we see more of that backbone in the oncoming fight over increasing the debt limit.