Who does Rep. Sensenbrenner
represent? He disgraces Wisconsin
UPDATE: On radio with Charlie Sykes, Sensenbrenner says he does care -- about money. $51.8-billion in waste, fraud and abuse?
How do we describe F. James Sensenbrenner?
Heartless? Uncaring? Unfeeling?
Yes, all of those and worse.
Fiscal conservatism is no rationale for his vote against providing disaster relief to victims of the Gulf Coast hurricane.
It goes deeper than that. It has to.
Anyone who has seen the images and read the stories of the plight of the hundreds of thousands -- perhaps a million -- people displaced by the storm must have an empathetic reaction. You can't see the devastation without reacting emotionally, without wanting to help people in need.
I don't know how many times we've cried at our house in the last 10 days. Too many to count.
The sadness at seeing the suffering of fellow human beings is compounded by the sense of powerlessness and helplessness. We want to do something more than write a check.
F. James Sensenbrenner, as a member of Congress, has the opportunity to do something in his official capacity. But he has refused.
I don't know what he has done personally to help victims. I hope he has been generous. He certainly has the means, if he chose, to write a million dollar check. Maybe he and Cheryl are preparing their extra rooms right now to take in some survivors. I hope so.
But it is his role in the House of Representatives that is at issue.
His title is Representative. But who does he represent?
Does his vote represent the people of his district?
Are we to believe that the people of Cedarburg, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, River Hills, Wauwatosa, West Bend, Mequon, Brown Deer, and other communities in his district wanted him to vote no?
Do you think the people of his district want to turn their backs on the survivors of Katrina?
Of course they don't.
So who is it, exactly, that Representative Sensenbrenner is representing?
It's not the Republican Party. Only 11 Republicans voted against the bill. It's certainly not his leader, President Bush, who asked for the money.
I'm hard-pressed to explain. Any possible answer seems too callous to be true.
Is he representing the super-rich, who stand to benefit from proposed tax cuts that may never happen now because of the cost of Katrina? You'd like to think not, since he is one of the potential beneficiaries of the tax cut.
If and when he explains himself, I suspect we will learn that he is representing some misguided, esoteric principle that only he can understand.
Sensenbrenner doesn't give a tinker's damn about the victims of Katrina, and there is more evidence than a single vote.
Sen. Russ Feingold, some other members of Congress and consumer advocates believe that Katrina victims should get a reprieve from a tough new federal bankruptcy law that is to take effect in mid-October, and Feingold has introduced legislation to do that.
Feingold, the AP reported, said he wants to make sure the new law "does not compound the hardship for thousands of hardworking Americans who simply will not be able to make ends meet as a result of this disaster." The new law makes it harder for debt-ridden Americans to wipe out their obligations through bankruptcy.
Feingold merely wants to let them operate under the old law for the coming year, while they try to get their financial footing and recover from the storm.
Sensenbrenner opposes the change. "The goal of this law was to ensure that all bill-paying Americans, including victims of Hurricane Katrina, don't have to pay the debts of others that can afford to pay," Sensenbrenner's spokesman told Reuters. "The chairman is interested in helping and protecting the Hurricane Katrina victims - they would qualify under the special circumstances exceptions under the bill," he told the AP. But he opposes the Feingold bill.
Sensenbrenner's great gift to Katrina survivors is a bill, passed Wednesday, that allows circuit, district and bankruptcy courts to conduct special sessions outside their geographic boundaries when they cannot meet because of emergency conditions. Very helpful to people who've just lost everything, wouldn't you say?
Who is Representative Sensenbrenner representing? He has chosen to side with the banks, credit card companies, and other special interests instead of the Katrina survivors who desperately need help.
His district is so overwhelmingly Republican he thinks, perhaps correctly, that he can do whatever he pleases and will suffer no consequences.
Perhaps it is time for the people of his district -- the people he purports to represent -- to speak up.
When he acts and votes as he does, he disgraces them and embarrasses Wisconsin. Let's tell him so.
Sensenbrenner's lame excuse
Buried in the middle of a story on page 15 of the Journal Sentinel, we find:
In a statement, Sensenbrenner said people affected by Katrina "clearly need help," but he said the spending bill "lacks accountability."
"When you add up the total dollars Congress has spent thus far in response to Hurricane Katrina -- about $62 billion -- and divide it by the number of people in Louisiana and Mississippi," that averages out to $119,000 per inhabitant," Sensenbrenner said.
Actually, dividing the amount of aid by the combined population of the two states -- about 7.3 million -- results in a per-resident figure of roughly $8,500.
"The magnitude of this disaster, and what has been widely regarded as an unsatisfactory response to the effect of Hurricane Katrina, demonstrates a great need for accountability in any spending bill that comes out of Congress," Sensenbrenner said. "Americans throughout the nation should be assured that the money spent by Congress will be spent on the thousands of people from the Gulf Coast who truly require assistance. Since this legislation lacks that accountability, I could not in good conscience vote for it."
Sensenbrenner made no attempt to amend or improve the bill, but simply voted no. It passed the House 410-11 and the Senate 97-0.