What kind of man do you have to be to hold up aid to disaster victims, how calcified does your conscience have to be?
The asshole extraordinaire holding up $1.15 billion in aid that was pledged by the U.S. to Haiti earthquake victims last March is Republican senator Tom Coburn (probably best known for his marquee role as confidential gynecologist to a certain philandering Republican senator):
Last spring, the United States pledged nearly $1.2 billion in emergency aid to Haiti following its tragic earthquake that left hundreds of thousands of people dead and many more homeless.
Yet the Associated Press (AP) reports today that “not a cent of the $1.15 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding has arrived” to Haitians who badly the need the aid. This summer, both the House and the Senate passed a bill that would make $917 million available for Haiti reconstruction aid. Yet Congress must also pass an authorization bill that directs exactly how the money will be spent, and thus far, the U.S. Senate has failed to do.
The AP conducted its own investigation of why the Senate has failed to pass the authorization bill, and it discovered that a single senator “pulled it for further study.” After calling dozens of senators’ offices, the AP discovered that the senator holding up the bill is Tom Coburn (R-OK). Coburn spokeswoman Becky Berhardt explained that the reason he is holding up the bill is because he objects to the creation of a senior Haiti coordinator — a position that would cost a paltry $5 million over five years — when the United States currently has an ambassador to the country…
And guess what’s happening in Haiti while Coburn pretends to further study the bill? People are dying.
Nearly nine months after the earthquake, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets between piles of rubble. One reason: Not a cent of the $1.15 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding has arrived.
The money was pledged by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in March for use this year in rebuilding. The U.S. has already spent more than $1.1 billion on post-quake relief, but without long-term funds, the reconstruction of the wrecked capital cannot begin.
With just a week to go before fiscal 2010 ends, the money is still tied up in Washington. …
Meanwhile, deaths in Port-au-Prince are mounting, as quake survivors scramble to live without shelter or food.
“There are truly lives at stake, and the idea that folks are spending more time finger-pointing than getting this solved is almost unbelievable,” said John Simon, a former U.S. ambassador to the African Union who is now with the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank.
But, hey, it’s only people dying. And how important is that compared to a five million dollar bureaucratic expenditure that Coburn sees as wasteful?
It must be Coburn’s deep Christian faith that allows him to see so clearly what’s the right thing to do when facing such a complex moral dilemma.
***Update, 6:29 a.m. ***
Here’s the part that really gets my goat. Coburn’s obstructionism isn’t just callous beyond belief, it’s also the very definition of bumbling idiocy.
This is the provision in the authorization bill that Coburn is incensed about:
The bill proposes a new coordinator in Washington who would not oversee U.S. aid but would work with the USAID administrator in Washington to develop a rebuilding strategy. The position would cost $1 million a year for five years, including salaries and expenses for a staff of up to seven people.
Coburn’s rationale for holding up the aid is supposed to be: why do we need this coordinator, when we already have an ambassador in Haiti? Evidently all that further study still hasn’t got Coburn to the point of realizing that the coordinator’s position is based in Washington, not Haiti.