By now I'm sure that all of you know that 67 Republican Congressmen voted against a bill that would replenish the federal flood insurance program with $9 billion. This was after the $60 billion Sandy relief bill passed by the Senate wasn't even brought up for a vote in the final hours of the 112th Congress. Republicans and Democrats from the tri-state area rightly blasted the House leadership for this dereliction of responsibility. However, there is one Congressman we didn't hear a peep from in this whole ordeal, my congressman New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett. It's not because he wasn't as vocal in his dismay at the House leadership as people like Chris Christie or Peter King. He was completely silent for an absolutely despicable reason.
Scott Garrett was the only congressman in New Jersey to refuse to sign a letter to the House leadership asking them to provide prompt disaster relief to Sandy victims. He did sponsor and vote yes for the $9 billion package for Sandy aid. However, he is the only member of New Jersey's congressional delegation who has indicated that he (yeah, NJ doesn't have any women in Congress) might oppose passing the other $51 billion of the Sandy relief money on January 15.
I can actually somewhat understand why some of the congressional Republicans voted against the $9 billion package. None of them represented districts that were directly affected by Sandy and they could vote as ultra-conservative ideologues on this without doing any harm to the people in their districts. But Scott Garrett? Let's have a look at Garrett's district:
Even though the impact of the storm wasn't as devastating in this part of New Jersey there was still some significant damage. Outside of Bergen county much of the district is heavily rural and forested and there was some significant damage caused by falling trees both to buildings and power lines. Some houses sustained such severe damage that they were rendered unlivable. Power outages were widespread as well. I was personally without power for seven days and others in the area were out for as much as ten days.
Garrett's district wasn't damaged nearly as badly as places like Moonachie, Hoboken, and parts of the Jersey Shore but there was absolutely destruction there and people are in need of help. Garrett voting against this aid would be like a congressman from northern Louisiana voting against aid for Katrina. Oh wait, Scott Garrett was one of 11 congressmen to vote against disaster relief for Katrina. I think we're starting to get the picture here.
While this stupidity might seem obvious to an outside observer, this comes as no shock to those familiar with Garrett. He was a Tea Party congressman before it was called the Tea Party. In 1998 and 2000 he unsuccessfully challenged his more moderate predecessor Marge Roukema from the right in the Republican primary. When she retired in 2002, Garrett won her old seat and has been there ever since.
In his ten years in Congress, he hasn't done a whole lot of anything besides conservative grandstanding. Remember the Republican Study Committee budget that Democrats all voted present on in 2011? Scott Garrett wrote that. He didn't think that the Ryan budget went far enough in dismantling Medicare and Medicaid. In 2008 he was one of 17 congressmen to vote against reauthorizing the Americans with Disabilities Act. What makes him look like more of an asshole with that vote was the fact that his Democratic opponent that year was blind.
Did you think I was done? When Obama got elected Scott Garrett was quick to join the birthers. He's been a long time advocate for teaching religion as science in public schools. Oh yeah he even opposes such things as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and has consistently opposed unemployment benefits. You would expect a voting record like this to come from a congressman from Oklahoma but no. This guy is coming straight out of Wantage, New Jersey.
When Sandy hit, New Jersey's elected officials from both parties stepped up to the plate. I may not like Chris Christie very much but I think he did a far better job dealing with Sandy than Louisiana governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco dealt with Katrina. All but one member of the New Jersey congressional delegation did their part too both Democrats and Republicans. New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiando reportedly had a very heated exchange with John Boehner when the 112th Congress adjourned without the Sandy bill coming to a vote. What did we see from Scott Garrett that night? A 'no' vote on the fiscal cliff deal and not a word of protest when the Sandy bill was postponed.
The prospect of Garrett voting against Sandy relief funding when his district was one of the areas affected is sinking to a new low. Elected officials (officially) are employed by the voters who elect them, not outside pressure groups. Is it worth it to throw your own constituents under the bus for the sake of some pointless political grandstanding? Is his Club for Growth report card more important than the homes, businesses, and the economy of his state? If Scott Garrett votes against the the rest of the aid for Hurricane Sandy, my congressman will reach a new low when I thought he couldn't go any lower.