WASHINGTON ― If Republicans don’t want to help the constituents of Democratic lawmakers when they face catastrophe, why should Democrats rush to the aid of voters in GOP districts in their times of trouble?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had a simple answer to that Tuesday. Because it’s the right thing to do, she said in a blistering floor speech that hammered Republicans for taking exactly the opposite approach.
“I am past sick and tired of Republican senators who come here to demand federal funding when their communities are hit by a crisis but who block help when other states need it,” Warren said, referring specifically to the GOP’s failure to act on the lead-pipe crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“Their philosophy screams, ‘I want mine, but the rest of you are on your own,’” Warren said. “It’s ugly, it’s un-American and it’s just plain wrong.”
The Massachusetts senator named no names, but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had singled out Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) earlier in the day for telling NPR that aid for his flood-ravaged state should not be held “hostage because of other people’s grief.”
Cassidy complained that quick relief for Louisiana should not be held up by Democrats who have been trying for a year to get aid to some 100,000 residents of Flint, about half of whom are African-American.
Over the course of that year, Republicans have argued repeatedly that the Flint problem is a state issue and that any federal aid should be offset by cuts elsewhere. The $220 million Flint bill, which is now stalled in Congress, would be paid for by cutting a $250 million tax subsidy that helps the auto industry.
By contrast, Republicans have added some $500 million to a stopgap government funding bill in order to help flood victims in Louisiana and other Southern states. That provision has no offset and would add to the nation’s debt.
“Like Flint, Louisiana received a federal disaster declaration to make the thousands of people who’ve lost their homes eligible for our help,” Warren said. “Congressional Republicans, urged on by the two Republican senators from Louisiana, have decided to give Louisiana the support that it needs to recover from this disaster as part of the government funding bill.”
Warren said it was “great” that Louisiana would get that help, but slammed the GOP for hypocrisy.
“The Republicans who control Congress say there will be nothing for Flint. This is raw politics,” she said. “Two Republicans represent Louisiana and two Democrats represent Michigan. Congress is controlled by Republicans, so Louisiana gets immediate help, but after a year of waiting, Michigan gets told to pound sand. Is this what we’ve come to?”
Democrats may yet obtain aid for Flint by refusing to vote for the overall spending bill, which would fund the government into December, until the cash for the Michigan city is guaranteed, too. One way that may happen is if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pulls the Louisiana funding from the spending bill and links it to the Flint aid. He said Tuesday that he was considering such a step.