U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot called the deadly storms that hit the Cincinnati area last March “catastrophic,” and he offered shattered communities a financial lifeline through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s low-interest rate disaster loan program.
In 1997, when Washington wrangling over budget issues held up relief after the Ohio River flooded Cincinnati, Chabot raged against “politics at its worst” and said his hometown truly needed federal assistance to rebuild. His words at the time: “Let us get the disaster relief to the people who truly need it.”
Fast-forward to January 2013, and Chabot is a refusenik when it comes to helping the battered Northeast United States with federal disaster relief.
Former New York Sen. Al D’Amato is calling the Republican House members like Chabot who wouldn’t support $60 billion in aid for Hurricane Sandy-ravaged states a "bunch of jackasses.” The jackasses are members of his D’Amato’s own political party. Chabot apparently balked at the Sandy relief package because it offered federal cash to the National Park Service and other agencies that needed funding after the storm. Chabot saw pork where most in the House — the two Sandy bills passed by huge margins — saw responsible and necessary federal actions; to borrow his words, getting “disaster relief to people who really need it.” Chabot and his fellow travelers are getting pounded as short-sighted skinflints. And he probably can be criticized as a hypocrite.
After the massive March tornado outbreak, Chabot posted links on his Twitter account and his official House website that guided Ohioans in the ravaged areas on how to apply for federal help. He pointed to the U.S. Small Business Administration as a source of disaster loans. On April 16, 2012, Chabot said, “The tornadoes on March 12 affected many in our region in various ways, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) may be able to help those who have experienced ‘uninsured’ losses caused by these catastrophic storms. If you are located in Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton or Warren counties and experienced damages caused by the tornadoes, high winds or flooding, you may be eligible for assistance from the SBA’s Disaster Loan program. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center has reopened in Moscow, Ohio, with extended hours.”
You can find the link from Chabot’s official House website by clicking here.
But there is more to the story. In 1997, after a disastrous Ohio River flood wrecked much of Cincinnati’s riverfront, Chabot ripped into then President Bill Clinton for vetoing a disaster relief package. Clinton was furious that the GOP had tied flood aid to his showdown with former Speaker Newt Gingrich over a government shutdown. Chabot said stopping the 1997 disaster relief package was a refusal to help Cincinnatian rebuild and get on with their lives.
Chabot took the House floor and gave a speech about Cincinnati needing federal disaster relief. Here is his speech from June 10, 1997:
“Mr. Speaker, yesterday President Clinton sent a callous message to the flood-ravaged American families in the Midwest. Only minutes after receiving the disaster relief bill from Capitol Hill, the President who likes to say he feels our pain told thousands of flood victims that he was going to veto the bill that would help them rebuild their homes and get on with their lives.
“Why did President Clinton veto the legislation? Because the bill contained a provision that would stop him from forcing another Government shutdown. Let me repeat that. The President is withholding aid to thousands of flood victims so he can reserve the right to once again put thousands and thousands of government employees out of work and bring the work of the federal government to a halt.
“Despite the fact that the President in a master of spin, Mr. Speaker, I do not think he is going to be able to spin this one much. The American people are going to see through this. It is politics at this worst. Let us get disaster relief to the people who truly need it most.”
You can read his House speech here.