On the “fiscal cliff” deal, 151 Republicans voted no, presumably because they were grievously put off by the lack of spending cuts. However, the very same members will vote today on part one of the pork-laden Hurricane Sandy relief bill. Keep in mind that this is not actually “emergency” money but long-term rebuilding funds. The remainder of the package will be considered, hopefully after the contents of this mishmash of spending can be analyzed. Will the GOP purists vote no again, or was the “fiscal cliff” vote just a lot of huffing and puffing for the benefit of the right-wing groupies?
The media of course gobbled up the intra-party fighting about Sandy relief, giving them ample justification to run with their favorite “GOP in disarray” meme. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knows how to get media attention and he performed with predictable intensity. But virtually none in the mainstream media at the time would concede that the speaker of the House was dead right in holding the line on a $60 billion measure stuffed with add-ons having little to do with Sandy rebuilding. Only after Boehner’s delay did the media begin detailing the extraneous, expensive items thrown into the Sandy aid bill.
A few commentators have it exactly right (“Boehner, in a brief moment of fiscal sanity, decided the pork-laden Sandy relief bill might need a tad more examination before we rush to fix the roof on the Smithsonian Institution and subsidize fisheries in hurricane-ravaged Alaska”). The Wall Street Journal editorial board is blunt: “This legislative maneuvering took courage on the Speaker’s part. There was the predictable outrage from New York and New Jersey Democrats. But the sniping from inside the GOP has been unhinged. . . . Mr. Boehner’s sin was ensuring that the House had time to sort the pork from the parochial. Mr. Christie should thank him on behalf of New Jersey taxpayers.” It remains unclear why Christie, who has been a tough guardian of the public purse in Trenton, would not have “pointed out that Democrats from the rest of the country have jeopardized the aid by cynically using the bill for their own parochial interests.”
From Christie’s account, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R- Va.) was doing his best to rush the aid package through after the “fiscal cliff” vote. If so, the far right should reconsider whether he is really Boehner’s superior when it comes to fiscal discipline and political courage.