The Final Failure of a Failed Congress
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
On Tuesday afternoon, it was difficult to imagine anything more comprehensively humiliating to the American republic than the spectacle of Congress slobbering its way through the sad cabaret of the so-called "fiscal cliff crisis."
But never fear, Boehner is here.
Late Tuesday night, House Speaker Boehner - out of absolutely nowhere - cancelled a vote on the much-needed aid package for states affected by Hurricane Sandy. The package had already passed the Senate with flying colors, and only needed House approval for the president to sign it into law. Apparently, however, the so-called "small government" ghouls from the Southern and Western delegations decided the country really doesn't need to help two of the most populous Northeastern states in the country. Boehner's people had been telling the Republican delegations from New York and New Jersey that the bill was coming all day, promising left and right not to worry, and then wham, gone, nope, nothing.
The storm, you will recall, killed at least 120 people, destroyed or damaged some 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey, and affected 305,000 homes and more than 265,000 businesses in New York.
These GOP guys are the ones who are so worried about the economy. No big economic hit from the storm, right?
The GOP delegations from the affected states were, flatly, apoplectic. Rep. GOP Peter King, one of the nuttier fruitcakes in the Republican pastry cart, let fly with the kind of invective he usually reserves for women, homosexuals, Democrats and other people he generally deems un-American. To wit:
I'm talking about the thousands of people in my district, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the New York-New Jersey area. Within 10 days after Katrina, $60 billion was appropriated. Nine weeks after Sandy, not one penny has been appropriated.
And let me just make this one point. These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they're out raising millions of dollars. They're in New York all the time filling pockets with money from New Yorkers. I'm saying anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their mind. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, it was an absolute disgrace.
Why the Republican party has bias against New York, this bias against New Jersey, this bias against the Northeast. They wonder why they're becoming minority party. Why we'll be party of the permanent minority. What they did last night was so immoral, so disgraceful, so irresponsible. They're supposed to be the party of family values. And you have families that are starving, families that are suffering, families that are spread all over living in substandard housing. This was a disgrace. They are inexcusable. And they have had it. As far as I'm concerned I'm on my own. They're going to have to go a long way to get my vote on anything.
King was not alone in his outrage. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) said, "We were all set to go, and I feel that this was a betrayal, I just have to say it. I feel it's a betrayal and an indefensible, an indefensible error in judgment on the Speaker's behalf."
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said, "This is an absolute disgrace, and the speaker should hang his head in shame."
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) said, "I feel truly betrayed this evening."
It goes on.
None were more outspoken than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who, in a free-wheeling press conference delivered specifically about the House's failure to pass the aid package, declared, "There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these victims: the House majority and their speaker. It was disappointing and disgusting to watch. There is no reason at the moment to believe anything they tell me, because they've been telling me stuff for weeks, and they didn't deliver."
When asked if there would be political consequences for Boehner and the GOP majority's failure to act, Christie replied bluntly, "We'll see. Primaries are an ugly thing."
The sun will rise on Thursday morning to shine down upon the end of the 112th Congress, the single most useless do-nothing assembly of fools and failures in modern American political history. Boehner and his crew of cretins in the House majority are almost singlehandedly responsible for the anemic economic recovery to date, entirely because they decided to sit on their hands rather than do anything - anything! - that might come within a country mile of helping President Obama win re-election.
They sat on a variety of jobs bills. They killed a minimum wage increase. They killed the Buffett Rule, which would have set an infinitesimal tax on millionaires, a bill supported by a huge majority of Americans. Along the way, they killed a bill to provide more transparency in campaign financing. They killed a bill to protect the rights of the disabled because, somehow, they decided it would lead to a takeover of America by the United Nations...and, in one last vile act, they failed to vote on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that was approved in the Senate by a 2-1 margin back in April.
After a day of getting screamed at by his own people, jellyfish Boehner backtracked and informed Rep. King that the House will vote on $9 billion in Sandy aid on Friday, and on $51 billion in aid on January 15th.
No rush, right? It isn't as if people are suffering or anything.
But here's the thing: there's no promise either bill will get past the nutjobs who almost completely control the GOP House majority. With only a few notable exceptions - take a bow, Allen West - this exact same bag of smashed ass will be returning for the 113th Congress, and the idea that John Boehner will have more control of them Friday than he did yesterday is almost too absurd to mention...and the fight over the debt limit is just over the horizon.
Take note, America: this is what you voted for.
Please be more careful next time.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.