Bill Straub: Massie’s vote against hurricane relief for Texas shows unsettling lack of compassion

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WASHINGTON – It appears our Wonder Boy, Rep. Thomas Massie, is making up for lost time, to the nation’s detriment.

Congress abandoned the nation’s capital on summer recess for most of August, leaving Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, with few opportunities to bring shame to the Northern Kentucky region he allegedly represents. Now that the boys and girls have returned, the old Whiz Kid is wasting no time forcing anyone with a heart to blanch.

Much of Southeastern Texas, including Houston, America’s fourth largest city, finds itself under a considerable amount of water these days as a result of Hurricane Harvey. You may have heard about it, it’s in all the papers. As a result, lawmakers are gearing up to funnel some needed financial aid the Lone Star State’s way to the tune of about $8 billion, with perhaps more in in the pipeline if needed later.

This is what the U.S. government does when literally millions of its residents find themselves bereft through no fault of their own as a result of tremendous disaster. Lawmakers are generally willing to step in even if heartless goons from the Texas delegation – here’s looking at you, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Jon Cornyn – opposed previous clean-up efforts in other states.

So the first order of business for the Republican-dominated House of Representatives immediately upon its return was the Houston aid package, which passed Wednesday in a 419-3 vote on its way to the Senate. Good for them.

But wait a minute… three duly elected members of Congress opposed federal efforts to help those who find their homes destroyed, their possessions gone, their livelihoods MIA and their families in chaos? Who in the world would do such a thing?

You guessed it, the Wonder Boy.

The New York Yankees used to have a rightfielder named Tommy Henrich who was dubbed Old Reliable. He’s got nothing on Massie, at least when it comes to rendering the most ghastly vote at the worst possible time.

As expected, Massie expressed concerns about the nation debt.

“With $20 trillion dollars of debt, and in the absence of a budget to guide spending, I believe that unscheduled spending should be offset by equal cuts elsewhere,’’ he said in a statement. “This bill recklessly increases the national debt because it contains no spending offsets.’’

Massie is using the debt as a crutch here and his vote displays an unsettling lack of compassion for the American people.

The national debt certainly is an issue and, at some point, it is going to have to be addressed. But the nation has not yet reached that moment in time. Until recently, when the fed started gradually raising the prime rate, lenders were almost giving money away. With interest rates at near zero, the federal government was dutifully borrowing as much money as it could get its hands on.

Regardless, the U.S. currently maintains a relatively stable ratio of debt to its gross domestic product and there remains not a hint of a financing problem. At some point, perhaps decades down the line, the federal government may have to make some difficult spending choices. But currently, given the needs facing the nation – a declining infrastructure, climate change and, yes, a flood-ridden Houston among them – decisions on the debt don’t need to be made now.

Even if you feel the national debt is out of control and budget cuts are necessary – presumably debt warriors like Whiz Kid will also prove willing to raise taxes to address the issue they are so concerned about (hahahahaha) – now isn’t the time to debate it with so many Texans neck deep in the big muddy. Opposing efforts to address their very real needs because funding isn’t slashed for other needed programs elsewhere is the height of cruelty.

Hurricane Harvey aid isn’t, of course, the first time Wonder Boy Massie has played this misbegotten game. He likewise opposed emergency funding in wake of Hurricane Sandy, which battered the east coast in 2013, offering the same lame excuse. With Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic Ocean- based storm ever recorded, poised to hit Florida in the next couple of days, the Whiz Kid will undoubtedly act in his usual petulant manner when the Sunshine State and others come calling.

But would Massie oppose disaster aid to his district, sans offsets elsewhere in the budget? Unlikely. And that’s what renders this vote so cowardly.

As evidenced by Wednesday’s vote, most lawmakers are willing to support emergency funding packages for states facing natural disasters even if representatives from those affected states opposed assistance elsewhere in the past. It seems unlikely that a horrible event facing Northern Kentucky, an Ohio River flood, tornadoes, an earthquake, any one of a number of disasters, will go unaddressed by empathetic lawmakers. So Massie’s vote doesn’t carry the potential of hurting the 4th Congressional District in any meaningful way.

But would Massie oppose disaster aid to his district, sans offsets elsewhere in the budget? Unlikely. And that’s what renders this vote so cowardly.

As has been noted on numerous occasions, Wonder Boy has amassed one of the weirdest voting records in the history of the republic. He has, for instance, voted against legislation pieced together by fellow a Kentuckian, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville, which essentially created a funding stream that can be used to address the creaky Brent Spence Bridge crossing the Ohio between Cincinnati and Covington in his district. He opposed it because it reauthorized the Export/Import Bank, as if anyone in Northern Kentucky or the nation as a whole cared.

He has voted against every Speaker of the House candidate put forth by his party, opposed awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus for some bizarre reason – essentially just because he could — and dissented on legislation sponsored by a fellow Republican calling on NASA to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Whiz Kid even turned his back on the ill, opposing popular legislation to improve the nation’s horrible mental health services because, “Republicans campaigned on reducing the federal government’s role in healthcare, so why would Republicans vote to expand the federal government’s role in healthcare?’’

And some of the legislation he has sponsored is, well peculiar. His latest is to abolish the federal Department of Education, unaware that President Trump already has beaten him to the punch by appointing Betsy DeVos as the agency’s secretary. He also has joined in the effort to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, thus coming out firmly against clean air and clean water.

And he is the nuttiest of the gun nuts, offering legislation requiring the District of Columbia to honor concealed carry permits issued by other states.

Fairness requires that his more stable decisions receive some note. He opposes sending troops back into that quagmire known as Afghanistan. He stands tall on many privacy issues. And he is a champion of the burgeoning industrial hemp industry.

That’s all well and good. But his propensity, even eagerness, to opposes any initiative that provides that the federal government rush to the aid of those in need must render Northern Kentucky voters, even the most conservative, dubious about his intentions. He makes Mrs. Corney, who ran the workhouse that housed Oliver Twist, look like Mother Teresa.

Anyway, if you’re in Irma’s path, don’t count on any sympathy from Wonder Boy.

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Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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