Following historic flood levels from Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, Congress defeated a bill 230-195 that would have funded emergency relief for storm victims, and Rep. Tom Marino, who represented the Valley, hit the roof.
Marino had just spent three weeks touring the damage in his district and was in no mood to hear what had become a fiscal conservative's mantra requiring emergency disaster relief to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"I saw grown men cry and say to me `Where am I going to put my family?' That is the job of the federal government, to help people during the time of a disaster," Marino said, explaining his most dramatic break from the concrete wall of orthodoxy that characterized his wing of government at the time.
After Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast, wreaking ruin through whole sections of New Jersey and New York, once again the iron fist of fiscal conservatism was uncurled by veteran and powerful members of Congress representing their districts and by short-time Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who embraced President Barack Obama on his storm-ravaged coastline.
This week, standing in the rubble of tornado-torn communities of Oklahoma, Republican Senators Tom Coburn and James Inhofe were asked about their opposition to $60 billion in disaster aid after Superstorm Sandy and how they would square that point of view with the obvious needs of their home state in the days ahead.
Coburn replied that there are significant funds already available for disaster aid and declared the question illegitimate, which it was obviously and patently not.
That was exactly the right time to ask that question. It was the time that came to Tom Marino and Chris Christie and Peter King and will come to scores of others who are charged with responsibly representing Americans in need.
We are a generous and caring people who give freely to help our fellow citizens, individually through our charities and our churches and collectively through the power of community represented by a national government.
We call ourselves Pennsylvanians, New Jerseyans or Oklahomans, but when tornadoes strike, hurricanes ravage and rivers flood, we are Americans. We ache for our fellow countrymen in their hour of tragedy and loss.
We expect the government to help people in a time of disaster and to do their job well enough so that they don't load in waste and pork.