As their state braces for its own natural disaster, two Florida Republicans voted against an aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey, with one offering a callous assessment of the very concept of government relief.
As his state prepares for the onslaught on Hurricane Irma, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz offered a stunningly heartless reason for voting against the relief package for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
He claimed such aid is “generational theft.”
Gaetz coldly lashed out at the very notion of government funding for relief efforts, stating that Congress was “[turning] a natural disaster into a trillion new dollars in spending authority.”
The relief funds were packaged with a deal to raise the debt ceiling, but Gaetz insisted any such increase must come alongside “entitlement reductions.”
“If conservatives don’t start voting no against debt-limit increases,” Gaetz continued, “all the FEMA in the world won’t save us from our must [sic] unfortunate destiny.”
One wonders if Gaetz would be willing to say that to the faces of the roughly seven million residents of his state under evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida.
His fellow Florida Rep. Ted Yoho also voted against the package, even as their GOP colleague, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, urged them to support it.
“As Hurricane Irma approaches Florida, I would ask that all my Congressional colleagues reflect on the fate of Florida’s 20.61 million residents” when considering the relief bill, she wrote in a letter.
Unfortunately, Gaetz and Yoho were not alone in their intransigence: 90 House Republicans, including four from Harvey-battered Texas, voted against the aid funding.
Many of them attempted to excuse their callous votes by insisting their constituents would understand and even agree with such a move.
South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford complained that the bill was worked out with Democrats “to throw in a bunch of things into one bill,” and declared that “the bill doesn’t work for me or, I believe, the district I represent.”
His fellow South Carolina Republican Rep. Ralph Norman echoed the same complaint about the scope of the bill, saying that if a disaster struck his own state “and a bill came up with not just money for FEMA but for every other project? No, I couldn’t support that.”
Many of the Republicans who opposed the larger package tied to a debt ceiling increase did support a separate, standalone relief bill that authorized a much smaller amount of money for aid. But raising the debt ceiling is crucial to the functioning of the federal government and the economy, and holding much-needed extra relief funds hostage in the name of wreaking further havoc on the nation simply makes no logical or humane sense whatsoever.
And as Florida residents scramble to find safe harbor while the massive hurricane heads their way, they will also have to wonder if their own elected officials will be there to help them once the storm clears and the recovery efforts begin.