By Markos Moulitsas - 01/08/13 11:37 PM EST
As House Republicans attempted to skip town last week without addressing the need for aid for Hurricane Sandy victims, New York and New Jersey politicians hit the airwaves to blast the callous Washington lawmakers.
That wouldn’t be surprising — except that the outrage came from Republicans.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie added to the chorus: “We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed above oaths to our citizens. To me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
That’s high irony, coming from last summer’s RNC keynote speaker. Republicans, as a matter of ideology, are opposed to the very notion of helping others. King claimed that turning your back on starving and freezing people wasn’t a Republican value, yet in the last year he voted to cut funding for school lunch programs, food stamps and supplemental heating assistance for the poor.
So it wasn’t surprising when House Republicans first tried to ignore Sandy relief, then passed a measly $9 billion bill, far short of the at least $60 billion needed for reconstruction. Even that insultingly paltry bill met with significant Republican opposition — all 193 Democrats voted for it, but 67 (mostly Southern) Republicans voted against it. In fact, a majority of freshman Republicans (19 of 35) voted against relief, proving that the GOP’s rightward drift continues unabated.
As former Rep. Steven LaTourette told The Atlantic, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had to pull the relief bill to save his Speakership. “He had expended a lot of political capital to get the 85 votes [on the fiscal-cliff deal],” LaTourette said. “There was a fear that if he put $60 billion, no matter how worthy, of unpaid-for emergency spending on the floor, the insurrection would become bigger than it was.”
Contrary to the bleats of Christie and King, it’s not at all shocking that Republicans stand in the way of disaster relief. The only shock is that some Republicans are shocked that Republicans don’t want to help anyone. Isn’t that the whole point of conservatism, that everyone is on their own?
Thus, it’s actually news when Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, recovering from a debilitating stroke, noted that it was wrong that stroke victims on Medicaid are limited to just 11 rehabilitation sessions. “Had I been limited to that, I would have had no chance to recover like I did,” he said. “So unlike before suffering the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face.”
Great! But we can’t sit around and hope every elected Republican suffers a personal calamity before he or she grows a heart. Compassion shouldn’t be a partisan issue, subject to the ideological whims of a radicalized American fringe.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos .com)