For more than 200 years, congregants have been responsible for the construction and repair of houses of worship. Now there’s a move afoot to shift some of that responsibility to taxpayers. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Congress is trying to rewrite federal rules to allow houses of worship to receive direct Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to pay for storm-related repairs.
The hurricane was devastating, but we mustn’t let that become an excuse to ignore basic constitutional principles. Church-state separation protects the right of taxpayers to support only the religious institutions of their choice, and it ensures the independence and integrity of faith communities. Houses of worship exist primarily to teach the tenets of their religion. They should be supported by donations, not government subsidies. Houses of worship should rely on private insurance and low-interest loans to meet their needs - not money taken from the taxpayer.
H.R. 592, the so-called Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013, has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
HR 152, the $50.5 billion Sandy reconstruction aid package finally passed the US Senate.
It took 91 days to get to this point, which is absolutely incomprehensible and unforgivable.
We should be thankful that this has finally passed Congress, but it should never have taken three months to do so. That’s months more than any other major natural disaster to strike the nation in decades. It’s months more than the time it took to agree upon Katrina aid. The disaster response by this particular Congress is absolutely shameful.
That is, until you see that there are still dozens of Senators who voted against the aid package - not because they oppose the aid, but because they’d rather burnish their so called conservative credentials than do the job of governance.
Not Voting - 2
None of these Republicans would ever tolerate the kinds of delays if it was to their districts. That makes them hypocrites on top of everything else.
Of particular note, you’ve got Senators from states affected by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and earthquakes. They all opposed this aid package.
They have no problem making demands to secure aid for their home states when the need arises - and it arises quite frequently in places like Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas (to name just a few). Hurricanes regularly hit the Gulf Coast and Florida, and yet Marco Rubio found reason to vote against this - and he’s claiming it is because why exactly? New York and New Jersey doesn’t deserve the aid? Because there weren’t offsetting cuts elsewhere? Because they’re burnishing their presidential ambitions (Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, I’m looking at you).
No Republicans have made such demands or permitted such demands when their own states were in dire need of disaster aid.
At a time when Sandy’s economic impacts lag behind only Hurricane Katrina in terms of monetary damage, these Republicans have have shown their complete and utter inability to govern and do what’s right for the nation.
After Katrina, Congress overwhelmingly approved a comparable sized reconstruction package within two weeks of the hurricane coming ashore. That package was $51.8 billion, and it was virtually unopposed (it passed 410-11 in the House and 97-0 in the Senate) and brought total aid for reconstruction up to $62.3 billion to that point. Not 90 days. Less than two weeks.
Among those who had no problem with the amount of money involved or the need to get aid flowing for Katrina, but then opposed Sandy aid:
Jeff Sessions; John McCain; Saxby Chambliss; Johnny Isakson; Mike Crapo; Chuck Grassley; Pat Roberts; Mitch McConnell; Richard Burr; James Inhofe; Tom Coburn; Lindsey Graham; John Thune; John Cornyn; Orrin Hatch; and Michael Enzi.
That’s 16 Senators who were present to vote for the 2005 legislation, but opposed the 2013 Sandy aid.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie may have “prayed” for Superstorm Sandy because it has provided political cover for his failed economic policies, the Democratic leader of the state Senate said Monday.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the state’s most powerful elected Democrat and a possible contender for his party’s nomination for governor, said Christie’s jobs plan before the late October storm was a disaster and now the reconstruction will provide an economic boost through thousands of new construction jobs.
He said Sandy, which killed people in 10 states but hit New York and New Jersey the hardest, flooding neighborhoods, knocking out power and destroying homes, helped hide the failings of Christie’s first term, including persistently high unemployment and housing foreclosures.
“His jobs package is a hurricane,” Sweeney said during a press conference on Monday, the day before Christie was set to deliver his State of the State message. “I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky because a storm came.”
Sweeney immediately apologized for the remark.
The governor’s office and leading Republicans pounced on Sweeney anyway.
This proves that GOP does not have a monopoly on batshittery. HOWEVER Dems like this are few and far between.
When we thought the increasingly fringe GOP couldn’t get any more despicable, they discover a way to sink deeper into irrelevancy.
Nonetheless, the $9.7 billion package passed Friday is intended to pay for flood insurance claims, but little else. Funding requests from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey alone add up to more than $83 billion. A second relief bill for an additional $51 billion is set for a vote later this month, but it is not clear if the speaker will be able to corral enough Republicans into supporting it.
Here is a map of the geography of the vote:
The far left and the far right agree on many things: mainstream politics doesn’t matter, hidden forces control our destiny, and, in case you hadn’t noticed, the world is about to end.
For the spiritual left, of course, the due date is December 21, at which time various Mayan calendars may or may not have predicted a global transformation of epic proportions. (Maya elders have recently pointed out that it’s transformation, not destruction, that’s in store.) From what I can tell, with one foot in the New Age world, 2012 chatter seems to have died down somewhat. But there are still plenty of true believers.
On the religious right, the world basically ended already: on November 6, with the reelection of a Kenyan Muslim Socialist to the presidency of the United States. The degree of the tragedy depends on the degree of the extremist describing it. For Republicans, it was a rude awakening—though judging from the ways the GOP has blamed the defeat on Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie, improper voter turnout in black neighborhoods, or anything other than the reality that most Americans preferred Obama’s ideas to Romney’s, many have chosen to remain asleep. For those of a more conservative bent, it was inexplicable: doesn’t America watch The O’Reilly Factor? How could we all be so confused?
But for the hardcore, this defeat was much more than that. The “march to Socialism,” which has been plodding along, on and off, since the 1930s, is now a phalanx. But more than that: given the right’s rhetoric about the Obama administration’s “war on religion,” his reelection looks like nothing less than the anointing of the Antichrist. If I seem to exaggerate, consider the literally apocalyptic rhetoric coming out of the Rutherford Institute (one of the leaders of the right’s new movement to protect ‘religious liberty’), the National Organization for Marriage, Alan Sears, Donald Wildmon, Glenn Beck, or many of the pundits on Fox News.
A 90-year-old menorah from a temple on Long Island that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy will be displayed at a Hanukkah party hosted by President Obama as a symbol of perseverance and hope for the holidays.
The brass menorah survived a 10-foot storm surge that destroyed a chapel, a library, numerous religious books and six Torah scrolls at Temple Israel in Long Beach, according to the congregation’s rabbi, David S. Bauman.
Rabbi Bauman said the White House contacted him about two weeks ago seeking a menorah that survived the storm’s onslaught. He said he took a photograph of the menorah, one of two that were located on the upper floor of the temple’s sanctuary, and sent it to a White House official.
“The next thing I know I’m talking to the White House curator and the Secret Service,” he said. “It’s an incredibly humbling experience.”
The White House was led to Rabbi Bauman’s congregation by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, an organization that helped communities in New York City and on Long Island in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. The group informed the White House about the menorah at Temple Israel.
Rabbi Bauman, 41, who is also a reserve chaplain in the Marine Corps, will travel with the menorah to Washington for the Hanukkah party, which will be held on Thursday.
The White House has a tradition of selecting menorahs with some kind of meaningful history. Last year, the menorah displayed at the Hanukkah party was one built at a displaced persons camp in Europe after World War II. In 2010, officials selected a menorah salvaged from a synagogue destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The #121212concert for Sandy relief is underway, and the opening act was Bruce Springsteen who was joined by Jon Bon Jovi for a rendition of Born to Run. That’s the tip of the iceberg for this huge show.
Funds raised by the show are to go to the Robin Hood Relief Fund. 100% of the funds are supposed to go to disaster assistance (as per Billy Crystal in his opening monologue).
It’s expected that the show will be simulcast to an audience of 2 billion people.
I understand that some folks are reluctant to give to this charity, or to the American Red Cross, or other major charitable groups because they aggregate funds and don’t necessarily fund relief directly for those affected by this particular natural disaster. That’s their prerogative.
For those folks, here are a couple of local charities that are helping folks in the affected areas of the New York City metro area.
I’ve donated to the Staten Island Rotary, which is assisting folks on Staten Island and with which I have personal connections. Rotary organizations throughout the region have similar efforts underway.
If you’re not sure of a particular charity, always check out sites like Charity Navigator and the BBB to see whether the charities are making every effort to maximize your donations and not eating it up with overhead and extraneous expenses.
President Obama plans to ask Congress for about $50 billion in emergency spending to help rebuild the states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, according to administration and Congressional officials briefed on the discussions.
The White House is assembling a spending request to send to Capitol Hill as early as this week, and while the final sum is still in flux, it should fall between $45 billion and $55 billion. That represents an enormous sum at a time when Mr. Obama is locked in a titanic struggle with Republicans over the federal deficit, but is significantly less than the states sought.
Unless an austerity-minded Congress adds to the president’s plan, state leaders would have to figure out other ways to finance tens of billions of dollars of storm-related expenses or do without them. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were seeking a combined $82 billion in federal help both to clean up and restore damage from Hurricane Sandy as well as to upgrade and harden infrastructure to prepare for future storms.
Administration officials would not say which specific spending items were being excluded, but other officials monitoring the issue identified several that the White House seemed cool to. New York, for instance, sought reimbursement for business owners for money lost while they were closed as well as for privately held utilities like Consolidated Edison.
Another proposal that may not make the cut was fully reimbursing homeowners for the costs they incur bringing damaged and destroyed homes to their condition prior to the storm; typically, the federal government covers the cost of bringing homes to a lower “livable” standard after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.