Seldom has a single vote in Congress appeared as cold-blooded and hard-headed as one cast by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., last week.
The issue was simple: temporarily increase the borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program so the Federal Emergency Management Agency could borrow an additional $9.7 billion from the Treasury to pay claims, including those from Superstorm Sandy.
The need was obvious: the flood insurance program was days away from running out of money to pay claims.
The consequences were dire: without additional funds, the flood insurance program would fail to relieve the suffering of victims of Superstorm Sandy.
The path to passage had been cleared: to ensure the approval of Congress, the flood insurance authorization had been removed from an overall $60.4 billion Sandy relief package and sent to the House and Senate on its own.
No member of Congress should have been more supportive of this measure than Palazzo. As the congressional representative of Hurricane Katrina’s “ground zero,” Palazzo should have had nothing but sympathy and empathy for those in need of this legislation.
Certainly seven years ago he would have. As the chief financial officer for the Biloxi Public Housing Authority when Hurricane Katrina hit, Palazzo called for immediate federal relief. “Send us money,” he said in 2005, “so we can put our families back together and do our part to rebuild our community.”
But instead of voting to honor the nation’s obligation to flood insurance policy holders in 2013, Palazzo joined 66 of his Republican colleagues in the House to vote against the bill.
The urgency he had understood so well after Katrina was gone, replaced by a call for a dialogue on spending and debt. Such a dialogue is needed. But the time and place for it is not when Americans are suffering from a natural disaster and in need of assistance only the federal government can provide.
That Palazzo would rather make a political or philosophical point than help put “families back together” and rebuild communities, as he once put it, is both shameful and offensive.
We doubt that any congressional district in this nation has ever had as much federal assistance following a disaster as Mississippi’s Fourth. How then is it possible for the Fourth District’s representative in Congress to speak of pinching pennies when he knows the immeasurable value of money flowing quickly into a disaster area?
We can only hope that the people of New Jersey and New York and the rest of the Northeast who were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy will pay more attention to the relief efforts that have come there way from South Mississippi than the vote of one South Mississippian in Congress.
This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board, which consists of President-Publisher Glen Nardi, Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point, Circulation and Human Resources Director Wanda Howell, Marketing and Interactive Director John McFarland and Associate Editor Tony Biffle. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.