Is it possible that a single vote could tell you that a representative lacks the knowledge, the insight, the essential human decency that is necessary to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives?
Yes, of course.
Some truths are so self-evident that a failure to recognize reality positions a member of Congress not just on the wrong side of an issue but on the wrong side of history.
Such a vote came on Thursday, when House members considered urgent legislation to provide $36.5 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other regions of the United States that have been devastated by recent wildfires and hurricanes.
Most members of Congress — 189 Democrats and 164 Republicans — voted in favor of the package that, among other things, provides $1.27 billion for emergency food assistance for Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands of Americans currently lack sustenance.
But 69 Republicans voted “no.” Three of those Republicans were from Wisconsin: James Sensenbrenner, Sean Duffy and Mike Gallagher.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who traveled to Puerto Rico last week and offered his usual platitudes, did not vote.
The Democrats who represent Wisconsin in the House — Mark Pocan, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore — voted in favor of delivering the needed aid. They were joined by Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman, a conservative with a conscience.
Pocan, Kind, Moore and Grothman got this vote right.
Sensenbrenner, Duffy and Gallagher got it wrong — so wrong that they have placed themselves on the fringe not just of the Congress but of their own party and the conservative movement.
Despite round-the-clock reports on the crisis that continues to plague Puerto Rico, despite the fact that people on the ground are pleading for help, these Wisconsin Republicans refused to vote to send the aid that was needed. Why? Because they simply choose not to address the suffering of Americans in places where men, women and children are dying.
It may be because they are ignorant. Or disengaged. Or cruel.
Whatever the reason, the Wisconsinites who voted against the aid package, along with the dozens of other Republicans from around the country who voted against the aid package, have no place in the Congress of the United States.
There is no justification for so irresponsible a vote, as the attempted explanations of the wrongdoers confirmed.
“Hurricane aid shouldn’t be added to the debt,” declared Congressman Mark Walker, R-N.C., who heads the Republican Study Committee. “That’s akin to going to the emergency room after an injury, putting the charges on a credit card, and then pretending that the Visa bill is never going to arrive.”
Walker, whose health care is paid for by the taxpayers, is so out of touch that he apparently does not understand that there are plenty of Americans who go to the emergency room and put the charges on a credit card. They do not pretend that the bill is never going to arrive. They know it is coming. It terrifies them. But in an emergency, they do what is necessary — and right — for themselves and for their families.
The notion that aid cannot be provided to those in need until cuts have been made to other necessary programs is the equivalent of saying to the family that shows up in the emergency room: "We cannot provide the care that you desperately need until you sell your house and bring the money that will be needed to cover the procedure."
That would be inhumane — literally the height of uncaring cruelty.
The same goes for the vote by Sensenbrenner, Duffy, Gallagher and their reprehensible colleagues to neglect Americans who are crying out for help.
They are not just as bad as Donald Trump, who has bumbled badly when it comes to responding to the needs of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other ravaged regions. A case can be made that Trump has at least tried to respond. Sensenbrenner, Duffy and Gallagher refused to respond to the simplest ask in a time of need. They really are worse than Donald Trump.
Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.