In our representative form of government, we elect people to gather in one place to give voice to the people of their respective communities.
Certainly, in as diverse and large a country as the United States, there will be regional, cultural and social differences.
But there is at least one common denominator. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and the like, don’t care about those regional, cultural and social differences.
This begs the question — why is a disaster relief bill even being debated?
One of the most important functions of government, as many have observed through the years since 1776, is to serve the needs of the people it governs.
The $19 billion disaster relief bill that has been crawling through Congress has been caught in a political quagmire. The bill would deliver long-sought relief to farmers, victims of hurricanes and floods, and rebuild military bases.
The bill has one of the most noble intentions, of the government providing aid and assistance to its citizens.
Disaster aid measures are usually among the few reliably bipartisan pieces of legislation left in an increasingly partisan Washington. But these are not usual days.
The dissenting lawmakers argue that such a massive emergency aid package should not be passed without a recorded vote and that the funding should be offset by other spending reductions, rather than increasing the federal deficit.
They also contend that the president’s $4.5 billion request for extra border security funding should be included.
Border security and aid to those affected by hurricanes, wildfires and the like are two items that should not be lumped into one package by Congress.
But these are not usual days.
When Congress reaches the point where its members cannot distinguish the role of leadership or partisanship, it can be disappointing.
But we’ve all been disappointed for quite a while now.
Six years ago, when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, several lawmakers voted against a $50 billion-plus Superstorm Sandy relief bill that passed Congress, accusing Democrats of swelling the measure with bloat.
We don’t know which is worse, voting against a relief measure because it doesn’t fund other projects or voting against a measure because it includes items that are not relief related.
So, we ask, what goal are those blocking members of Congress pursuing? To work for the people or continue their position in their respective parties.
We can understand voting against, and even blocking, legislation because the congressman or senator feels it is not in the best interests of constituents. But to pull together two unrelated items?
It would be, from what we’ve seen, hard for us to imagine the majority of their constituents would be against disaster aid. Not from what we’ve seen from communities across the country who offered support and assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The disaster bill will eventually pass. It will eventually be signed by President Donald Trump.
Our only question is: Why has it taken so long for something that should have been a no-brainer?
• Dave Mathews