As if the ongoing disaster that is the Republican presidential clown car wasn’t doing enough damage to the image and prospects of the once-Grand Old Party (not to mention the country), I recently came across two articles about the party’s lawmakers that made me ask not “what were they thinking?” but “was anyone thinking?”
Last week, Congressional Republicans passed a measure that would have blocked EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The President vetoed it, but I remain absolutely stunned that—in the midst of the disaster in Flint, Michigan, and the national outcry over that massive failure of government oversight—such a bill would even be introduced, let alone passed.
Unsurprisingly, the effort unleashed headlines like “As Flint, Michigan Suffers from Contaminated Water, Republicans Attack Clean Water Act.”
Thanks to an ill-conceived effort to save an estimated $100 per day (followed by 18 months during which the Governor’s office responded to complaints from citizens by telling them the water was just fine although they knew it wasn’t), Flint’s children now face impaired cognitive development, behavioral problems, and nervous system damage. Meanwhile, estimates of the costs to correct the entirely man-made problem run into the billions.
In the midst of this crisis, and just days before the state of emergency was declared, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote an op-ed attacking the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. In the op-ed, Ryan declares that the stricter rules (finalized by the EPA this past summer which gives the agency authority to regulate smaller bodies of water to limit pollution) are a prime example of government overreach and that the only goal of the agency is to micromanage how citizens use water.
There is a yiddish word for this behavior: chutzpah. (Look it up.)
You might think that nothing could top this particular display of tone-deaf arrogance, but you’d be wrong.
Whenever another mass shooting brings calls for better background checks or other modest gun-safety measures, the NRA and its enablers always respond by insisting that the problem is a lack of mental health screening and treatment. So Senator Al Franken has sponsored a bill to improve those services.
The Franken Bill would provide much needed mental health services and tools for police and the courts to address deficiencies in the nation’s mental health system. The legislation should be uncontroversial, but Mike Lee and Tom Coburn adhere dogmatically to an anti-government ideology that would even deny combat veterans and others suffering from mental illness, access to critical services.
So Coburn and Lee have blocked the bill.
Franken’s bill does have support from several less-crazy Republicans, but increasingly, GOP policy is in thrall to people like Lee, Coburn and the Governor of Texas, who recently vetoed a mental health bill in that state because—wait for it—he doesn’t believe mental illness is real. (Can I offer you a mirror, Governor?)
Speaking of cognitive impairment…Just how many Americans have been drinking Flint’s water, and for how long?