New Mexico's Tea Party Congressman Steve Pearce (R) was one of 67 Republicans to vote against Hurricane Sandy relief earlier this week - two and a half-months after the superstorm killed more than 100 people and brought trillions of dollars of damage to Northeastern states.
Though Pearce was quick to say "NO" to his colleagues and fellow Americans in states from North Carolina to Maine suffering from Sandy, he has had no problem asking those same Americans to bail out New Mexicans from countless past natural disasters.
During the previous Congress - the same one in which Republicans failed to even hear Sandy relief - Pearce sponsored HR6017 to allow the FEMA administrator to suspend a waiting requirement for federal flood insurance for victims of New Mexico's wildfire season. Had it passed, it would have opened up more federal disaster aid money, paid for by all American taxpayers, to aid his constituents. Then, in September, Pearce wrote in a public letter to the Ruidoso Free Press, "I applaud this federal response" after FEMA stepped up to assist communities like Ruidoso, Alamagordo and Lincoln County in his district affected by wildfires and flooding. Similarly, in 2008, he notified FEMA to be alert to a possibility that flooding in Aztec, New Mexico (not even his district) could require FEMA disaster relief.
By anyone's account, the partisan politics practiced in Washington today are testing our system of government. But, until now, America has taken pride in reaching across state lines and across the aisle to help fellow Americans ravaged by natural disaster. When New Mexico was burning, taxpayers across the country - including those in states now suffering from Sandy - contributed to our recovery. Congressman Pearce went even further asking his colleagues to make a special exception to the law to permit residents of our fire-ravaged state to receive federal assistance not then available. But when it comes time to return the favor to a few patriotic Northeastern Americans, Steve Pearce just said, "NO."
This practice of playing politics with people's lives and futures in their most desperate time of need is despicable and un-American. While we are thankful that the remainder of our state's Congressional delegation had the good sense and decency to do the right thing in a time of crisis, we all suffer a black eye because of Congressman Pearce. We can only hope that our fellow Americans will see past his petty politics and gamesmanship when another fire season is upon us and we again extend a hand to them for help.