NY Rep. Hinchey argues against the GOP continuing resolution due to the disaster relief provisions Someone should have told Eric Cantor holding disaster aid hostage for budget cuts was a bad idea. Maybe someone did, but he chose not to listen.
September 22, 2011

NY Rep. Hinchey argues against the GOP continuing resolution due to the disaster relief provisions

Someone should have told Eric Cantor holding disaster aid hostage for budget cuts was a bad idea. Maybe someone did, but he chose not to listen. The net result of that was a disastrous vote yesterday in the House of Representatives on what should have been a routine continuing resolution to keep agreed-upon budget numbers in place.

What happened instead highlights the ongoing and rising tension between the tea party freshmen and the rest of the Republican party.


Attached to the bill was a highly controversial measure that gives the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund additional funding to pay for both recent disaster relief efforts and recovery projects from disasters that may have happened years ago — but only by stealing $1.5 BILLION from a successful job creation program to “offset” the spending to help disaster victims. Strangely, Republicans steal $1.5 BILLION from the jobs program, but only offset $1 BILLION in disaster funding.

THE JOBS REPUBLICANS WANT TO KILL: The program they want to steal $1.5 BILLION from, the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, has already created approximately 40,000 American jobs by spurring American manufacturing in 11 states across the country. The program, if it remains fully funded, stands to createat least another 50-60,000 American jobs in states like Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, and Michigan.

Democrats whipped against the bill because of its job-killing nature, and it was defeated on a final bipartisan count of 195-230. Here's the thing: Had Republicans not defected, it would have passed. So the question is, which Republicans defected and why? Can you guess? Yes, tea party freshmen bolted because it didn't cut enough spending, and because they had vowed not to pass omnibus spending bills. So Democrats bolted because it killed jobs and inadequately funded disaster relief and Republicans bolted because it didn't kill enough jobs or cut enough spending. Oh, and they think it's totally okay to shut down the government, too.

That leaves John Boehner to figure out whether he's going to keep pandering to the extreme right wing of his party or try to fashion a compromise with Democrats. According to this National Journal report, he's very frustrated with the tea party folks right now.

Boehner was described as "spitting nails" during a closed-door member meeting on Wednesday, and his harsh talk demonstrated that the usually unflappable speaker is reaching something close to a breaking point with his internally divided conference.

Those close to Boehner said there is a growing anger in the leadership that some in the freshman class and other intractable conservatives pay no mind to the legislative dangers of abandoning leadership—especially at a time when Democrats feel as if they and President Obama are fighting for their political lives.

Top GOP leadership aides said Boehner knew the stopgap bill would fail and wanted to prove to the Republicans who defected how their actions would force party leaders to negotiate with Democrats to win passage of the must-pass bill. A government shutdown is not an acceptable alternative to GOP leaders, a message Boehner reiterated on Thursday. “There’s no threat of government shutdown—let’s just get this out there,” he said.

In private, Boehner has grown tired of what he dismissively calls the "know-it-alls who have all the right answers." Boehner knew what a defeat would mean—a more costly spending bill, one that provides more emergency disaster relief and contains fewer budget offsets.

Oh, John Boehner, you should have gotten some lessons from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi on this. There comes a time where you just have to decide that the hard line won't work. At some point compromises have to be made. Had Boehner done a deal with Pelosi to include the just-passed Senate Disaster Relief bill as an amendment, it's possible it could have passed and sent a strong message to Those Who Have The Right Answers. Instead, he's got a public rift in his party and what looks to be a public spat with Eric Cantor.

Cantor framed his arguments as opposition to the Senate disaster bill, but he was really spewing the tea party lines. From Politico, before the vote was taken:

“The real debate here is whether we’re going to stick to the agreement of the debt ceiling, which said that we’ve got the fixed number at the top…and are we going to start spending more?” Cantor said Wednesday. “Are we going to allow, yet again, another opportunity to take advantage of a crisis? We’re not for that. We’re for getting the people the disaster relief they need and do so in a responsible manner, and that’s why what you’ll see today is a CR that’ll pass the House floor and go over to the Senate.”

Oops! So what did he say afterward? Not much.

Oh, by the way. The program they wanted to strip funds from? The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program? Well, that's an interesting thing, as it turns out, since Darrell Issa pushed for a federal loan guarantee under that very program for a campaign donor. The guarantee wasn't granted, and the company has returned deposits made for the three-wheeled electric vehicles.

Was the choice to cut that program and Issa's current hair-trigger investigations of green energy programs revenge or stewardship? I'll let you make that call.

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