Sunday, December 30, 2012

Will House GOP Succeed Where Senate Republicans Failed? Inflicting More Pain On Hurricane Sandy Victims


Bergen County's Scott Garrett sides with the Confederates against his own constituents

Friday, the Senate passed a $60.4 billion aid package, 62-32, which the GOP tried cutting back. Much of the money will be used for long-term capital-intense projects to work on things like strengthening the NYC subway system and rebuilding New Jersey’s devastated shoreline and to further bolster FEMA, which has once again become an effective organization now that the shrinking government small enough to drown in a bath is no longer the underlying goal, as it was when Bush controlled the White House and the GOP-controlled Congress.

Every Democrat voted for the legislation, even arch conservatives like Mark Pryor and Joe Manchin, and besides just the mainstream conservatives like Snowe (ME), Collins (ME), Scott Brown (MA), Murkowski (AK), Heller (NV) and Lugar (IN), Gulf state Republicans-- well aware about how crucial federal aid is for natural catastrophes-- joined the Democrats, something they rarely do, to slap down Miss McConnell's directive to make the Northerners go to hell. When's the last time you saw Cochran (R-MS), Wicker (R-MS), Shelby (R-AL), Hutchison (TX) and Vitter R-LA) vote with the Democrats against their own caucus? The only Gulf state Republicans to vote NO were hard core obstructionists and sociopaths Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and John Cornyn (R-TX). Before the bill passed, right-wing former lobbyist Dan Coats (R-IN) failed, 41-54, to pass an amendment cutting it drastically. Boehner and Cantor plan to cut the allocation up and make sure the victims of the super-storm get no aid.

Last week, ace reporter Lee Fang reported in The Nation that the impetus behind the GOP efforts to deal out pain to the Northeast storm victims was none other than the John Birch scions the fascist-oriented Koch brothers. The Kochs' phony grassroots machine Americans for Prosperity is leading the battle against aid.
Hurricane Sandy was the second most costly in American history, leaving 100 lives lost, over $50 billion in devastation and tens of thousands of damaged or destroyed homes. Legislative efforts to help those who survived Hurricane Sandy’s wrath will reach a major stumbling block.

Earlier this week, AFP, which is chaired by Koch and believed to be financed by several other plutocrats from the New York City region, released a letter warning members of Congress not to vote for the proposed federal aid package for victims of the storm that swept New Jersey, New York City and much of the surrounding area in October. An announcement on the group’s website says that the vote next week for the Sandy aid package will be a “key vote”-- meaning senators who support sending money for reconstruction could face an avalanche of attack ads in their next election...

Koch’s top deputy in New Jersey, a surly gentleman named Steve Lonegan, who heads the local AFP state chapter, called the aid package a “disgrace.” “This is not a federal government responsibility,” Lonegan told reporters. “We need to suck it up and be responsible for taking care of ourselves.”

It seems particularly cruel that the Koch political machine would use its vast network of paid activists and professional operatives to kill this bill. For one thing, this is David Koch’s community. From his Upper East Side apartment, Koch lives only a subway ride away from the devastation in Red Hook. Notably, Koch’s group gave away free gasoline during the election in a wide-scale anti-Obama stunt, yet had nothing to give to the victims of the storm. Now, Koch, one of the richest men in the world, is actually trying to take something away from them.

There’s another wrinkle to this political assault on the aid request that makes it even more heartless. (No, it’s not the rather arbitrary decision to target this piece of federal funding over others. Recently, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta identified $74 billion in unnecessary military spending, but AFP has not demanded that the government immediately axe these funds.)

The other tragedy of Koch’s decision to target Sandy aid is that his company is one reason we will increasingly face extreme weather events like hurricanes, flash floods, droughts and fierce storms. The Koch brothers, David and Charles, sit atop one of the world’s largest privately held conglomerates. Koch Industries is a sprawling company with interests in commodity speculation, timber, oil refining, ethanol production, chemicals, pipelines, consumer products, and fertilizer, among others. The Koch empire, by one estimate, has an annual carbon footprint of 100 million tons.

Not only does Koch’s business contribute to climate change through massive carbon emissions, as Greenpeace reported, Koch is the largest financier of climate denial political organizations and media groups. (As an aside, unlike AFP, Greenpeace ignored partisan politics and sent many of its workers to Queens to assist with relief efforts.)

...As I’ve written, Koch’s political machine has largely used “conservative” and populist political efforts to advance their bottom line. Koch Industries makes a fortune by avoiding having to repay society for contributing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Before AFP fought efforts to regulate carbon emissions, the group (then known as Citizens for a Sound Economy) blasted efforts to curb acid rain and asthma-causing dust from factories, using much of the same rhetoric and hard-edge tactics. It lost those battles; but in recent years, it has won major policy debates, especially on climate change.

In this instance, there’s no payout to Koch Industries. Instead, it appears the fight over the Sandy relief money is yet another proxy battle with President Obama and his party. If the bill is significantly sliced apart, or even blocked, Democrats will have a difficult time finding the funds to pay for other programs over the course of next year.
Among the Koch whores in the House GOP threatening to disrupt the aid are right-wing hacks in New York (like Staten Island's corrupt Mafia-related Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm) and New Jersey's worst extremist ideologue Scott Garrett. Long Island Congressman Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, which has been handling the bill, is worried that if the money doesn't get approved while he's still chair, Texas hate-monger Michael McCaul-- the richest member of the House and an anti-tax fanatic-- will kill it. Many Republicans still fighting the Civil War look at this as an opportunity to deal a painful blow to the hated Northerners.

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