Bills passed? Rangel was #1. On March 27, the do-nothing GOP “led” gridlocked Congress with the lowest approval rating in history voted to send $1 billion in “loan guarantees” to Ukraine. The vote was 399-19 (17 Rs/2 Ds voted NO). At a time we often hear of budget constrains, 399 members of the House voted YES to sending $1 billion overseas. Whether the U.S. will see the money again in an open question.
The same less-government “fiscal conservative” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) who argued there had to be a “pay for” in 2011 for FEMA aid for Americans after hurricane Irene said sending $1 billion in tax money away was a fine idea.
Couple that contradiction in ideology with the fact that Cantor’s constituents rarely saw him. And just think: Cantor was the guy who set the House schedule up so members had only 113 days in session and plenty of time in the district. Yet Cantor never had an open town hall. With that alone no one should wonder why he was tossed from office.
Meanwhile there’s Rep. Charlie Rangel, 84, and Sen. Thad Cochran, 76. Cantor lost. They won. To hear some tell it, Cantor’s loss was supposed to be the sign of a “anti-establishment” wave. Now we know there was only a anti-Cantor wave. With Rangel and Cochran many asked: How do these two keep getting re-elected? What do they do for constituents?
My guess would be: Money. The margins may not have been huge but the bottom line is more voters concluded that Rangel and Cochran could get more done than Espaillat and McDaniel. The Bronx needs empowerment zones — something Rangel practically invented. Mississippi has the lowest average income in the U.S. ($36,000) and is last in health and education. What was the McDaniel plan on these issues?
As Rangel stood on stage at Taino Towers in East Harlem on election night he was at a place he secured $9 million in federal funding for. Rangel got $788,000 for Alianza Dominicana in Washington Heights — the heart of Espaillat country. But with the press more interested in “clicks” than anything else, who really reports that info?
In 2010 and 2014, Rangel was named the most productive Member of Congress by the non-partisan hyper-digital-analytics site TrackBill. With Congress doing close to nothing these days that’s an impressive stat. TrackBill rates the impact and rate of bills passed by each Member of Congress. They looked at the last 10 years and voted Rangel #1 twice. Rangel passed the most number of bills he sponsored than any member of Congress over the ten period. It’s no accident that several of the longest serving members are in the top ten.
On top of that Rangel moved cash. Low income housing money? Earned Income Tax Credit funding? Rangel on Ways and Means has probably won more results on those issues than all the civil rights organizations combined. If there’s one thing old members of Congress know how to do it’s move money to their districts and states. And serving on a committee that decides how billions in public money is spent makes moving money even easier.
Why State Senator Adriano Espaillat was lying to voters and saying things like, “you’re [Rangel’s] not effective anymore,” is anyone’s guess but he was right to assume no one would actually check. The often repeated claim that nothing is getting done in Washington jives well with the impression that nothing is changing for the better in the black community.
The June 24 runoff between Cochran state Sen. Chris McDaniel focused on the $800 million in federal funds going to Mississippi’s K-12 education budget — aka money McDaniel would not have brought in. Then there was another $700 million spent on the state’s colleges and universities. That’s what Cochran brought in. And that’s only one fiscal year. What the McDaniel plan for replacing that money was — other than mouthing tea party talking points over and over — who knows. Did he really believe voters in one of America’s poorest states wouldn’t consider education funding an issue?
“McDaniel has offered no way to replace that approximately $1.5 billion in federal funds coming into the state to support its education system at all levels,” a local paper editorialized. Was Mississippi ready to lose $400 million in federal funds for the state’s colleges and universities to vote for McDaniel? Apparently not.
Last week, President Obama requested $300 million for Syria — and so-called “small government” conservatives will probably vote “yes” while at the same time talking about how “less government” and fiscally conservative” they are. Meanwhile: The water is being shutoff in Detroit.