Brad Zaun needs to clarify his stand on flood relief

As of yesterday, 44 of Iowa’s 99 counties are under disaster proclamations because of flooding in June or July. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted today that Republican Brad Zaun, the GOP nominee against Representative Leonard Boswell, has a record of opposing government assistance for flood victims. At an IowaPolitics.com forum in March of this year, Zaun suggested that Americans have forgotten about “personal responsibility” and gave this example: “We lost that as a country, we expect when there’s a flood or something that’s going on, the government to come in and help us.” Like all other Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate, Zaun voted against the bills that created the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program in 2009. I-JOBS included $100 million to rebuild the University of Iowa campus, $46.5 million to rebuild sites in Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Palo, Elkader and Charles City, plus $118.5 million in “competitive grants available for reconstruction of local public buildings and flood control prevention.”

Zaun told the Des Moines Register that the DCCC took his remarks out of context, adding, “Obviously the people who are affected by the [Lake Delhi] dam break, I would obviously expect the government to play a role in that… there’s certainly is a role for government when there’s big disasters like this.”

What would that role be, Mr. Zaun? You voted against recovery funding after the biggest flood disaster in this state’s history. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth observes, “Republicans have previously said their opposition [to I-JOBS] was primarily due to their concern about long-term debt and not a sign of opposition against flood mitigation or recovery.” Fine. Let Zaun spell out how he would have paid to rebuild the University of Iowa and Linn County landmarks, let alone finance flood mitigation efforts elsewhere, without state borrowing. We didn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars lying around in 2008 and 2009, because the worst recession in 60 years brought state revenues down.

Zaun wants to have it both ways: he brags about opposing I-JOBS but doesn’t want voters to think he’s against government aid when there’s a “big disaster.”

Speaking of incoherent campaign rhetoric, Zaun’s comment about flood relief at the March forum was part of his answer to a question about new financial regulations. After lamenting the lack of “personal responsibility” in this country, Zaun concluded, “there needs to be some changes with our banking system, but its not with more government red tape and I would not support that current bill [under consideration in Congress] that you’re talking about.” I would love to hear details about the banking system changes Zaun would support.

Getting back to flood recovery, I still wonder what Representative Steve King has against the federal flood insurance program. Unfortunately, property owners around Lake Delhi are unlikely to benefit from that program, because Delaware County had declined to participate.

UPDATE: Boswell’s campaign released this statement on July 27:

“It is unfortunate that Senator Zaun made such insensitive and out-of-touch comments, especially as Iowans are experiencing widespread flooding across the state for the second time in two years. He has a long record of repeatedly voting against helping Iowa’s families, small businesses, and farmers in the aftermath of the 2008 floods. Iowans pay taxes into their local, state, and federal governments with the expectation that when a disaster strikes their investment will pay off. They trust that they will have a place to go, someone to counsel them, and a way to rebuild their homes and businesses. After all, this is their tax dollars – their government. I know that my conscience would never allow me to stand idle as these families, small business owners, farmers, and communities suffer following a natural disaster. This November Iowans will have to choose whether they want to elect a representative that will stand by them in times of need and fight for their fair share of their tax dollars, or someone who turns his back on his constituents.”

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Steve King unsure how best to exploit USDA scandal

Representative Steve King rarely misses a chance to accuse the Obama administration of racism, but this week he seems uncertain about the best way to exploit the fiasco over USDA official Shirley Sherrod’s dismissal. King told Politico yesterday that he sympathized with Sherrod, having been misquoted himself.

King suggested Sherrod has changed her views over the past quarter-century and should get her job back.

“Also, I think it’s interesting that we don’t have it clear whether [U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom] Vilsack fired her or the White House fired her,” King added. “The president was going to be the first post-racial president but his whole presidency is becoming about race.”

But in a talk radio appearance, King took a different tack, saying Sherrod’s hiring by the USDA should be investigated. He noted Sherrod was a claimant in the Pigford case (a discrimination lawsuit black farmers brought against the USDA). Apparently King wants Americans to believe the Pigford case settlement resulted in too much money going to too many black farmers.

In other recent King news, to no one’s surprise he joined the new Tea Party Caucus that Michele Bachmann founded in the U.S. House of Representatives. Bachmann and King are ideological soulmates who share a press secretary. To see who else became a founding Tea Party caucus member, check this list on the Mother Jones blog. You’ll find some famous loudmouths (Joe “You Lie!” Wilson) and “big idea” folks like Paul Broun, who wants to repeal the constitutional amendments that permit the federal income tax and the direct election of U.S. senators.

The Tea Party caucus isn’t just a haven for fringe-y House wingnuts, though. Bachmann’s group attracted GOP leaders including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence. Whether they’ll manage to harness tea party energy for the bulk of GOP establishment candidates remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, heavy rain continues to batter Iowa this week. I see King joined Iowa’s other U.S. House members in asking President Obama to “quickly approve Gov. Chet Culver’s request for a disaster declaration for Iowa counties” affected by flooding. However, I can’t find any press release from King’s office explaining his vote last week against extending the federal flood insurance program.

UPDATE: King tweeted around 1:30 on Thursday afternoon, “Shirley Sharrod was involved in a collective farm in Georgia. Nation’s largest ($13 million) recipient in Pigford Farms($2 billion) fraud.” He got that information from talk radio host Ben Shapiro.

SECOND UPDATE: King notes in a press release that he has signed on to a “friend of the court” brief defending the state of Arizona’s new immigration law. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against that law. On Fox News yesterday, King gave a theological justification for his position on immigration:

God gave us rights. Our founding fathers recognized that. It’s in our Declaration [of Independence]. It’s the foundational document of America, and God made all nations on earth and He decided when and where each nation would be. And that’s out of the Book of Acts and it’s in other places [in the Bible]. So we can’t be a nation if we don’t have a border, and if we grant amnesty, we can’t define it as a border any longer or ourselves as a nation as a border any longer.

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Steve King voted against extending flood insurance program

Via Howie Klein at DownWithTyranny I learned that the House of Representatives approved a bill on the federal flood insurance program yesterday by a bipartisan 329-90 vote. As you can see from the roll call, 85 Republicans voted with all but one of the Democrats present to pass this bill. Here’s why:

The flood program, an arm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has for more than four decades offered affordable insurance to more than 20,000 communities that participate in flood damage reduction efforts and to residents in federally designated flood zones. It was created in 1968 because of the reluctance of private insurers to cover flood damage.

Congress has not updated the program since 1994. In the ensuing years the once-solvent program had to pay out some $17 billion in Katrina-related claims and had to deal with FEMA flood zone remapping that has thrust thousands of homes and businesses into areas where they are required to buy flood insurance.

[…] Without congressional action on a long-term bill, the flood program has lapsed three times this year, and [Representative Maxine] Waters said that during those lapses some 1,200 people a day were unable to close on home purchases in flood plains because FEMA could neither write new insurance policies nor renew old ones. The flood program is now running on a short-term extension that expires at the end of September.

FEMA press secretary Rachel Racusen expressed hope that Congress would pass a long-term measure that would strengthen and improve the program. “This program is critical for Americans who need to protect their homes, businesses and livelihoods from flooding,” she said.

Even Republican Tom Latham of Iowa’s fourth Congressional district voted for this bill, and he rarely votes against House Republican leaders.

But wouldn’t you know, Steve King was one of the 89 Republicans who voted no on the flood insurance bill. I wonder how many of his fifth district constituents live in counties affected by flash flooding just a few weeks ago. Maybe King has more pressing things on his mind, like the new “tea party” caucus Michele Bachmann is forming in the House.

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