Right-Wing Amendment Forces Katrina Victims To Find A Job Before Receiving Aid

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"Right-Wing Amendment Forces Katrina Victims To Find A Job Before Receiving Aid"

hensarling.pngThe House today is debating the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, introduced an amendment that would require victims of Hurricane Katrina to perform 20 hours/week of approved “work activities” to receive financial aid for housing.

The Institute for Southern Studies reports that Louisiana is “still largely an economic disaster area as a result of Katrina.” Many jobs have disappeared, and the first houses in the Lower Ninth Ward weren’t completed until late last month, amid a “sea of ruin.”

In an impassioned speech, Rep. David Scott (D-GA) addressed Hensarling on the House floor:

This amendment is cruel, it is cold, it is calculating, and it is pandering to the schizophrenic dichotomy that has plagued this nation since they first brought Africans on these shores from Africa. And that is the issue of race and poverty. Let me tell you something, gentleman. Where were you, where was your amendment when the Twin Towers were hit and the people in New york suffered that catastrophe? There was no cry before we gave them help. “They got to go get a job.” Everybody was there and poured in help, as they should, the American way. Where was your amendment down in Florida when the hurricanes hit down there? Nobody said, “Make ‘em work before we help them.”

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/03/henskatr.320.240.flv]

Earlier this evening, the House defeated the amendment 266-162.

Transcript:

SCOTT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I want to commend the distinguished gentle lady from California, and our chairman, Mr. Frank, for doing an excellent job in leading this. This amendment represents the ugly side of this nation. This amendment is cruel, it is cold, it is calculating, and it is pandering to the schizophrenic dichotomy that has plagued this nation since they first brought Africans on these shores from Africa. And that is the issue of race and poverty. Let me tell you something, gentleman. Where were you, where was your amendment when the Twin Towers were hit and the people in New york suffered that catastrophe? There was no cry before we gave them help. “They got to go get a job.” Everybody was there and poured in help, as they should, the American way. Where was your amendment down in Florida when the hurricanes hit down there? Nobody said, “Make ‘em work before we help them.” Where were you last month when the hurricanes hit in Arkansas and in south Georgia, when the president went down and declared it a disaster area? We helped those people. My friend, let me remind you of something. I’m going to tell you this story. It’s a story about some folks that went down the road to Jericho, and this gentleman fell among thieves. He had a disaster. He was hurting, and he was pained. Somebody walked by him and said nothing and did nothing. Another person walked by him and did nothing. Your amendment is worse. You want to kick them and say, get up and get a job. But that certain man had compassion on him in his hour of need, picked him up, put him on his horse, took him to an inn, and paid him to take care of him and house him. That’s what this amendment is doing. It is a good Samaritan amendment. Yours is the ugly American amendment and it needs to be defeated.

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GREEN: Thank you, Madam Chair, and I thank the members who have spoken before me, and I’m greatly concerned about this amendment. I’m concerned because I, too, understand what happened with 9/11. It was one of the great disasters of our time, and yet, I know of no amendments comparable to this one. My friend from Texas and I, in committee, engaged in somewhat of a Q and A. So I believe it appropriate and fair that he and I do a similar thing at this time. So to my friend from Texas, I ask, what amendment would you have imposed on the more than $15 billion that the families received after 9/11, which, by the way, I think was appropriate? I ask my friend to respond and I yield him such time as he may need within my two minutes to do so.

HENSARLING: Well, one, to help answer the question of the gentleman from Georgia, I wasn’t in Congress so therefore I had no —

GREEN: Because my time is limited, let me just ask, if you would, what would you have done was my question.

HENSARLING: Well, as typical, what I would try to do is offer offsets, and I believe that any income-based program of cash assistance or other welfare assistance ought to be —

GREEN: Reclaiming my time for just a moment. Please, do not — I want to engage, it’s just that I have limited time. Would you — would you have required work from the families of 9/11?

HENSARLING: Again, I believe that anybody who is receiving income-based assistance from the federal government ultimately — ultimately — ought to be on the road to self-sufficiency.

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