The Republican party loves to refer to itself as the party of “patriots.”
In promoting this label, it relies on exploiting traditional symbols of American fortitude, militarism, and masculinity: police, the military, and firefighters.
But every so often even the furtive Grand Old Party is unable to maintain the facade.
In the current age of Trump, as decorum and civility have been relegated to the annuls of a by-gone era, the Republican party has had no problem lately coming right out and putting its disdain for the poor and middle class on full display.
As if we needed another reminder of how little the Republican party regards anyone other than its wealthy donors, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted this week to block an extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund the House of Representatives passed last month.
The fund that would have provided first responders and their families care until the 2090 fiscal year and received virtually unanimous support (402-12), about which even Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated “The Senate has never forgotten the Victim Compensation Fund, and we aren’t about to start now,” is going to have to wait a little longer before getting support in the Senate–at least for now.
Sen. Paul trotted out the hackneyed Republican talking point “We can’t afford it” to defend his position.
“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in this country. Any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable.”
What is “less valuable”?
In Republican-speak, it means Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, public education, environmental regulations, financial regulations, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights.
Basically, anything that helps the poor and middle class.
Some will argue Sen. Paul is just concerned about our debt, as should we all be.
A spokesperson for Sen. Paul defended that Paul is not seeking to block the bill, but is merely concerned about how we will pay for it, stating:
“As with any bill, Senator Paul always believes it needs to be paid for. Senator Paul is simply offering an amendment, which other senators support, to pay for this legislation.”
He helped blow a one trillion-dollar hole in the debt that now appears to concern him so much.
New York Sen., 2020 presidential candidate, and the bill’s sponsor, Kirsten Gillibrand, took to the Senate floor to lambast Sen. Paul:
“Enough of the political games. Our 9/11 first responders and the entire nation are watching to see if this body actually cares. Do we care about the men and women who answered the call of duty?”
At a press conference Wednesday, Gillibrand reminded Majority Leader McConnell about what he said regarding “never forgetting” by holding a vote on the bill next Thursday.
“Sen. McConnell, I call upon you now to keep the commitment that you made to these brave men and women. I urge you to do the right thing by putting the House bill on the floor where it will pass so we can finally let these men and women have peace.”
Actor and comedian Jon Stewart, who appeared before a House subcommittee panel on June 11 to lobby for the first-responder bill, appeared on Fox News with 9/11 first responder John Feal, who called Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee “opportunists” and “bottom-feeders.”
“You can’t cherry-pick and choose when you want to be a conservative fiscal hawk; that’s just insulting to our intelligence. And shame on them. They lack humanity, they lack leadership.”
The following day on CNN’s “New Day” Feal exclaimed:
“You know, yesterday Jon Stewart said we had to beg. We’re not begging; we’re demanding. We don’t beg for anything anymore. They work for us and they should be begging for forgiveness for being assholes for the last 15 years.”
“Pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling.”
Sen. Paul, though, is doubling-down.
He called Jon Stewart a member of the “left-wing mob,” trashing him to Fox News’ Neil Cavuto:
“I know Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart is sometimes funny, sometimes informed. In this case, he’s neither funny nor informed.”
Luis Alvarez, a retired New York City Police Detective and 9/11 first responder, said at his appearance before the House with Jon Stewart:
“I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me are valued less than anyone else because of when they get sick. You made me come here the day before my 69th round of chemo. I’m going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 responders.”
He died three weeks later.
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