The Republican Party owns this mess and more specifically the House of Representatives Republicans, up to and including Speaker John Boehner. They have had weeks to get a Hurricane Sandy aid package passed, but they sat on it. They’ve had a version to work with for more than three weeks.
The House finally acted today on one portion of the overall $60b request for aid from states affected by Hurricane Sandy. They finally acted to approve the $9.7b portion that re-funds the National Flood Insurance Program.
The people affected by this program are people who actually paid flood insurance premiums into this program for insurance. Republicans ignore that basic fact when they vote to oppose this funding. They have a fiduciary duty to act promptly. They failed miserably on that account, and it was only the righteous indignation of Republicans in New York and New Jersey, along with Governor Chris Christie to get even this meager piece of the reconstruction package to the floor for a vote.
The final vote was 354-67. All 67 opposed were Republicans. Many were from states that are regularly hit with natural disasters. Here’s the list…
In an extraordinary political moment, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called a press conference today and took a wrecking ball to the House Republican majority, and especially Speaker John Boehner, for killing the bill that would have provided $60 billion in emergency funds to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Even for someone not known for mincing words, Christie’s remarks were unusually pointed and direct; he called the House’s failure to act on the Sandy legislation “a disgrace,” “toxic,” and “disgusting,” and said Speaker Boehner had refused to take four phone calls from him last night.
Christie also made it clear that he thinks the “fiscal cliff” debate was a manufactured fiasco, calling it a “fake” and sarcastically referring to it as an “epic battle.”
Note that Christie is still very much a right winger in every way that counts, so as entertaining as this might be, don’t get too starry-eyed about him. For example, even on issues like global warming, which arguably contributed to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, Christie toes the anti-science Republican line.
[Live event concluded…]
Gov. Christie is not the only Republican who’s upset about this pathetic failure: Peter King: Halt Donations to House GOP.
New York Republican Rep. Peter King went to war with his Republican colleagues on Wednesday after leaders spiked a Hurricane Sandy relief bill, calling on New Yorkers to stop all donations to GOP House members.
“These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” King said on Fox News. “They’re in New York all the time filling their pockets with money from New Yorkers. I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s taken the lead on criticizing the Obama Administration’s disaster response following Hurricane Sandy. He’s actually compared the disaster response from Sandy to the response by the Bush Administration to Hurricane Katrina and found the Bush Administration response to be better.
It’s time for a fact check.
That’s the same Rudy Giuliani who agreed with Bloomberg to hold the NYC marathon. “Mayor Bloomberg made the right decision to go forward with the marathon” - Rudy Giuliani on Fox News.
That’s the same response that led to so many on Staten Island raising holy hell, the New York Post to lambaste Bloomberg, and for Bloomberg to reverse course less than 48 hours before the marathon and cancelled it. Of course, even after the marathon was cancelled, not all of the equipment, including generators, was made available for disaster response. Some of it was still sitting in place in Central Park and elsewhere, even as Mayor Bloomberg now warns those without power that the cold could end up being a killer.
Rudy, the city’s response to the disaster is decidedly mixed.
Bloomberg could very well have his Mayor Nagin memorial motor pool moment courtesy of his inane decision to run the marathon and subsequent cancellation with less than 48 hours notice all while equipment and material from the marathon wasn’t brought to bear to help relieve suffering of those in need.
However, the Sanitation Department has been pulling its weight and clearing debris throughout the City. The NYPD and FDNY have been doing tremendous work in keeping the city safe - crime is actually down 30% despite scattered reports of looting.
The MTA has done a phenomenal job in getting service restarted, despite catastrophic and unprecedented damage to the subway system.
Bloomberg’s performance leaves much to be desired. Staten Island and the outer boroughs - Rockaways, Southern Brooklyn and Queens, are a mess and it will take months and years to bring those areas back to normal (if ever - and one can see how damage from major storms rewrote the geography and demographics of places like Homestead FL and towns up and down the Gulf Coast).
Disaster response means getting all the various parts to speak to each other and work together with a common goal. That’s working in spots. But when Con Ed can’t get to its utilities to restring lines for power because of debris but the Sanitation Department can’t get into areas because of energized downed power lines, you begin to understand the conundrum of restoring power in a natural disaster.
Still, despite this, the MTA got the Staten Island railway up and running and buses are again moving through the borough. That’s a whole lot better than it was, but the job’s nowhere near done or complete.
Even with the heroic efforts of the NYPD, FDNY, and Sanitation Departments, there’s not enough of a local, state and federal presence in those areas. It’s coming, but not fast enough, and the damage is hard to comprehend.
Trying to compare Katrina to Sandy is apples to oranges. Population densities are a completely different tale. While Katrina’s damage was on a scale never before seen in the US, the Gulf Coast has a population density of 178 people per square mile. New Jersey’s got 1,189 inhabitants per square mile. New York City? 26,403 people per square mile. By comparison, the current population density of New Orleans is a fraction of that with 1,965 per square mile. It needs a completely different scale of response.
Still, it’s kinda tough to hear GOPers complain about the pace of FEMA assistance when they have been busy complaining and calling for FEMA to be disbanded/privatized, etc. Or, disaster response should be devolved to the state level, so that when a disaster strikes, the very government that’s supposed to help can’t because their resources were wiped out by the disaster they’re supposed to address. The same people who would seek to eliminate FEMA are the same ones complaining they aren’t there fast enough and aren’t taking steps to make sure it’s funded in a way that it could respond with sufficient numbers to assist those in need.
FEMA arrived on Staten Island within 4 days of the storm. Is that fast enough? Hardly. Could they have gotten there faster? Possibly, until you realize that if they pre-positioned in the hardest hit areas, they would have suffered the same fate as so many of the very residents they’re supposed to try and assist. That means watching entire shorelines vanish. Homes moved off their foundations. Entire neighborhoods impassible with debris and damage and downed lines.
Blaming FEMA is the easy way out. And one doesn’t have to see a FEMA agent on the ground to be able to get FEMA assistance either. In most cases, getting a phone call in to the agency is sufficient to get the response system started - 1-800-621-FEMA. Even the response trucks and door-to-door response is geared to getting people to call in to FEMA to deal with their disaster needs.
It’s not perfect, and seeing people with their FEMA uniforms/jackets is a comforting thought to those who have seen everything turned upside down, and that’s where having more boots on the ground can help.
At Buzzfeed, McKay Coppins has the pathetic tale behind the Romney campaign’s frantic efforts to capitalize politically on Hurricane Sandy without looking like they were capitalizing politically: The Making of Romney’s Storm Relief Event.
After some deliberation, the campaign decided to use their existing venue in Ohio to stage a makeshift and nonpartisan humanitarian project. It would be a way for Romney to show leadership — and get on the local news — without looking craven or opportunistic.
The cryptic advisory went out to press several hours later, announcing the time and location of a “storm relief event” on Tuesday. As Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, Romney’s campaign jet carried the candidate, along with his staff and traveling press corps, back to Ohio after an afternoon rally in Davenport, Iowa.
Meanwhile, on the ground in Dayton, aides were working feverishly to depoliticize the planned event. Campaign signs were removed from the premises, long rows of folding tables were set up, and logistics were painstakingly arranged to accomodate physical donations. …
The plan was for supporters to bring hurricane relief supplies to the event and then deliver the bags of canned goods, packages of diapers, and cases of water bottles to the candidate, who would be perched behind a table along with a slew of volunteers and his Ohio right-hand man, Senator Rob Portman. To complete the project and photo op, Romney would lead his crew in carrying the goods out of the gymnasium and into the Penske rental truck parked outside.
But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal-Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer.
Cynicism is Mitt Romney’s constant watchword in this election. Another vignette from this crass display:
As supporters lined up to greet the candidate, a young volunteer in a Romney/Ryan T-shirt stood near the tables, his hands cupped around his mouth, shouting, “You need a donation to get in line!”
Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking, “What if we dropped off our donations up front?”
The volunteer gestured toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate. “Just grab something,” he said.
Two teenage boys retrieved a jar of peanut butter each, and got in line. When it was their turn, they handed their “donations” to Romney. He took them, smiled, and offered an earnest “Thank you.”