According to the Washington Post, House Speaker John Boehner refused to take a stand today on the issue of offsetting disaster aid to Oklahoma with cuts in other areas of the budget. Those other areas? Student aid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, welfare in general.
During an impromptu press conference yesterday, reporters repeatedly asked Boehner about a proposed Republican timeline for a disaster aid package and whether Republicans will require that any federal monies provided to Oklahoma be matched by spending cuts. He demurred each time.
Instead, Boehner is quoted by the Huffington Post as saying, "We'll work with the administration on making sure that they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma," Boehner said.
Recall that it was last January in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that Congress passed a disaster aid package. One Hundred Eighty House Republicans voted against the $50.5 billion package for the East Coast. They demanded that that money be offset with spending cuts from what they considered wasteful programs – mainly those aimed at helping the poor and the working poor.
It was only after an outcry from New England lawmakers and the general public that Boehner allowed the bill to the floor – without offsets. The bill then passed in the House with mainly Democratic votes.
Both Oklahoma's senators opposed disaster aid packages without offsets for Sandy.
According to the Huffington Post, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has already loudly stated that any Oklahoma disaster aid package must be offset. It's important to note that Coburn is retiring after this term.
Oklahoma's other senator, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), meanwhile, has not been so loud or public in his stance. In fact, he has indicated that he may not demand offsets this time around. He, of course, plans to run for office again.
Rep. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.) has also been a staunch opponent of disaster aid without offsets in the past. But, since Moore, Okla. is his hometown, he's had a sudden change of heart about the whole thing.
"We have a lot of tornadoes in Oklahoma, but we don't have tornadoes like this. This one is very different," he said.
Likewise, Rep. Frank Lucas' (R-Okla) view of disaster aid may have been changed by this latest devastating wind through his state – at least for the short term. He allowed that Oklahomans are used to this kind of thing. They face tornadoes "constantly," he said. But he also said that Monday's tornado is "hard to describe," and that he is still thinking about how to respond to Oklahoma's request for federal aid.
Interestingly, the Washington Post reports that Oklahoma ranks third in the nation after Texas and California in terms of federal disaster and fire declarations and aid. In fact, it was just last month when President Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma following severe snowstorms earlier this year. The declaration frees up federal aid to the state.
Coburn spokesman John Hart said that Coburn has "never made parochial calculations" about Oklahoma's disproportionate share of disaster funds, according to the Washington Post.
Hart added that Coburn "makes no apologies for voting against disaster aid bills that are often poorly conceived and used to finance priorities that have little to do with disasters."
Just when I thought I had heard it all....
These Oklahoma lawmakers are allowing their “ideological” bent and beliefs to trump the very real and ongoing suffering of people who are likely their own neighbors, friends, and even in some cases, possbily relatives.
Something is missing here. I mean in the souls of folk like this.
And the cuts they seek, the “offsets” that they demand, would hurt even more people, people who are already hurting, struggling – students, the unemployed, seniors who've worked a lifetime for a deserved and secure retirement in their "golden years," sick people.
I mean where does this kind of thinking come from? It takes a special kind of venal and dysfunctional personality to believe that hurting people actually helps them.
They are an amazing group to watch, these “conservatives.” I look at them with open-mouthed disbelief. They will actually -- knowingly -- harm their own people for the sake of ideological purity.