GOP Uses Government to Hurt, Not Help

Republicans are stingy when it comes to disaster relief, but spend big to fund discrimination.

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

Much of the East Coast area struck by Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012 is still in need of relief—something the House Republicans are less than willing to fork over. (DVIDSHUB/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Last week, as Con­gress opened its new ses­sion, two reg­u­lar JoesSen. Manchin of West Vir­ginia and Vice Pres­i­dent Biden of Delawaregave a hand to Sen. Mark Kirk, a Repub­li­can from Illi­nois, who’d suf­fered a stroke a year earlier.

Here’s the kicker: Although the measure passed, 67 House Republicans voted against the aid for storm victims whose houses were flooded, wind-whipped or burned to the ground.

Joe and Joe assist­ed Sen. Kirk in climb­ing the 45 Capi­tol steps to take his seat once again in the Sen­ate cham­ber. It’s what every reg­u­lar Joe in Amer­i­ca does. They help their co-work­ers, fam­i­ly, friends and neighbors.

Sim­i­lar­ly, Amer­i­cans believe their gov­ern­ment should help when nec­es­sary. When the task is too big for a cou­ple of Joes to achieve, Amer­i­cans want their gov­ern­ment to step up. Dis­as­ter relief is such a task. Repub­li­cans just don’t get this. The GOP uses gov­ern­ment to hurt Amer­i­cans, not to lend a help­ing hand.

That’s what the GOP did last week. The major­i­ty of Repub­li­cans in the U.S. House64 per­centvot­ed against extend­ing tax breaks for work­ing Americans.

Those Repub­li­cans vot­ed to raise tax­es onto hurt99 per­cent of Amer­i­cans, most of whom bad­ly need the tax break as a result of the Great Reces­sion, the decline in hous­ing val­ues and the decade-long stag­na­tion in wages. Those Repub­li­cans also vot­ed to wound the Amer­i­can finan­cial sys­tem, which needs work­ers to have mon­ey so they can spend it and revive the economy.

But that’s just the begin­ning. Those Repub­li­cans in the House, who con­stant­ly claim to be so very wor­ried about deficits, also vot­ed to spend more mon­eythat is, more than the $1.5 mil­lion already wast­eddefend­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay people.

The Repub­li­cans gave addi­tion­al pay­ments to attor­neys who will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to immor­tal­ize the inequitable Defense of Mar­riage Act. DOMA has been struck down by low­er courts. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has deemed DOMA uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. And the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans oppose it, par­tic­u­lar­ly those in three states that approved same-sex mar­riage in ref­er­en­dums last fall.

Before the 2012 leg­isla­tive ses­sion expired, Repub­li­cans found the time and mon­ey to put that hurt on gay peo­ple. But Repub­li­cans just couldn’t make the time or find the mon­ey to help the hun­dreds of thou­sands of East Coast res­i­dents dev­as­tat­ed by Hur­ri­cane Sandy.

They didn’t care to give a hand to the storm-rav­aged Amer­i­cans still with­out elec­tric­i­ty or sleep­ing on cots or striv­ing to rebuild with­out promised fed­er­al aid.

Final­ly, on Fri­day, three days after decid­ing to fur­ther finance dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex cou­ples, Repub­li­cans in the U.S. House got around to vot­ing to pro­vide a tiny frac­tion of the aid need­ed by Sandy vic­timsan addi­tion­al $9.7 billion.

Here’s the kick­er: Although the mea­sure passed, 67 House Repub­li­cans vot­ed against the aid for storm vic­tims whose hous­es were flood­ed, wind-whipped or burned to the ground.

GOP House Speak­er John Boehn­er stalled until Jan­u­ary 15 a vote on the bulk of the $60.4 bil­lion in aid that the Sen­ate had approved dur­ing the 112th leg­isla­tive ses­sion last year. If Repub­li­can House mem­bers actu­al­ly approve the relief then, two-and-a-half months will have elapsed since the worst storm to hit the East Coast in decades, one that killed 130 Amer­i­cans and caused more than $82 bil­lion in damage.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuo­mo, a Demo­c­rat, said after Boehn­er closed the 2012 leg­isla­tive ses­sion with­out call­ing a vote on the aid pack­age, When Amer­i­can cit­i­zens are in need, we come to their aid. That tra­di­tion was aban­doned in the House last night.”

Amer­i­cans give a help­ing hand. But not House Republicans.

House Repub­li­cans also spurned anoth­er group of blame­less vic­timswomen who suf­fer vio­lence. The House GOP refused to approve a renew­al of the Vio­lence Against Women Act, which the Sen­ate passed last April.

Here’s why House Repub­li­cans oppose reau­tho­riz­ing the law cred­it­ed with reduc­ing the num­ber of both women and men killed by domes­tic vio­lence: the new ver­sion extends pro­tec­tion to immi­grants, Native Amer­i­cans, les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al and trans­gen­dered peo­ple. The House Repub­li­cans have made it clear they don’t want to help MORE peo­ple. So they passed noth­ing at allno help for abused women!

After Boehn­er blocked a vote on Sandy relief on New Year’s Day, New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, a Repub­li­can, said it illus­trat­ed why the Amer­i­can peo­ple hate Con­gress.” But that state­ment is too broad. Half of Con­gress, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled Sen­ate, had passed the legislation.

And Amer­i­cans know that it’s Boehn­er and his band of GOP House mem­bers that have repeat­ed­ly refused to help. Vot­ers demon­strat­ed that knowl­edge and their dis­dain for that GOP phi­los­o­phy when they elect­ed more Democ­rats to the House last fall.

When Boehn­er wait­ed until the last pos­si­ble sec­ond to pre­vent the coun­try from falling off the fis­cal cliff, the New York Times wrote this about him and the House Republicans:

The unwill­ing­ness of Mr. Boehner’s cau­cus to join such deci­sions for the com­mon good sug­gests that the 113th Con­gress … will be bit­ter­ly unpro­duc­tive, and pos­si­bly even more dan­ger­ous than the last Congress.”

On Thurs­day, before the 113th Con­gress opened, the third Sen­a­tor who stood with Repub­li­can Kirk at the bot­tom of the Capi­tol steps, ready to help, was major­i­ty whip Dick Durbin of Illi­nois, a Democrat.

Repub­li­cans didn’t even help when it was one of their own.

Full dis­clo­sure: The Unit­ed Steel­work­ers union is a spon­sor of In These Times.

Leo Ger­ard is inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed Steel­work­ers Union, part of the AFL-CIO. The son of a union min­er; Ger­ard start­ed work­ing at a nick­el smelter in Sud­bury, Ontario, at age 18, and rose through the union’s ranks to be appoint­ed the sev­enth inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent Feb. 28, 2001. For more infor­ma­tion about Ger­ard, vis­it usw​.org.
Subscribe and Save 66%

Less than $1.67 an issue