The House of Representatives has approved $19 billion in disaster relief funds for hurricane and flood-ravaged areas such as the Florida panhandle, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico. The legislation advanced by a vote of 354-58, with all ‘NO’ votes coming from Republicans (more on that in a moment).
The Senate had already overwhelmingly passed the disaster relief measure, and President Trump — who has repeatedly expressed his support — is expected to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. Yet as the Associated Press reports, this seemingly-popular bill took quite a long time to actually get through the sausage-making process in Washington D.C.:
…conservative Republicans in the House held up the bill last week, objecting on three occasions to efforts by Democratic leaders to pass the bill by a voice vote requiring unanimity. They said the legislation — which reflects an increasingly permissive attitude in Washington on spending to address disasters that sooner or later hit every region of the country — shouldn’t be rushed through without a recorded vote…
…As the measure languished, disasters kept coming — with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio just the most recent examples. The measure is supported by the bipartisan party leadership in both House and Senate.
The legislation is also being driven by Florida and Georgia lawmakers steaming with frustration over delays in delivering help to farmers, towns and military bases slammed by hurricanes last fall. Flooding in Iowa and Nebraska this spring added to the coalition behind the measure, which delivers much of its help to regions where Trump supporters dominate. [Pols emphasis]
Colorado’s Congressional delegation did not vote strictly along party lines; Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) joined all four Democrats in voting ‘YES’ on Monday. The two ‘NO’ votes from Colorado’s delegation were from Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs). While Lamborn’s vote is as unsurprising as it is unimportant, Buck’s vote is a different story because of his other job as Chairman of the State Republican Party in Colorado.
When Buck decided to run for the vacant State GOP Chair position earlier this year, he made it clear that he had no plans to give up his Congressional seat. Buck now does both jobs, though the day-to-day operations of the State Party have been handed off to former Chairman and new “CEO” Steve House.
Buck and his spokespeople will say that his votes in Congress are made strictly as a representative of CO-4, where a solidly right-wing base of supporters might actually approve of their Congressman acting like a heartless dickhead. While this may be technically accurate, it doesn’t change the fact that the man who is also the leader of the Colorado GOP was among a small contingent of Congressional Republicans who opposed providing disaster relief for suffering communities across the country.
Buck can claim that what he does in Congress is unrelated to his work as State Party Chairman, but it’s just not possible to cleanly separate the two roles on policy issues. Would Buck have voted differently on the disaster relief measure if he were casting a vote on behalf of all Colorado Republicans? If so, then what does that say about the residents of CO-4? There was always going to be an obvious conflict of interest for Buck to do both jobs at the same time; these are the type of votes that turn a small discomfort into a festering wound.
Buck can be the symbol of the Colorado Republican Party or he can represent his Congressional district…but he can’t do both. Republicans who don’t think this is going to be a problem in 2020 are kidding themselves.