Sklar says Paul’s ideology alienates him from the rest of Congress, which hurts residents of his district because he cannot generate support among other members for local projects.
“Even though I may not have as much power as a freshman Republican, it’s still going to be more than our incumbent congressman,” Sklar said. “Making a point is one thing, but we need someone who can make a difference.”
Wasting no time in directly challenging the seat’s incumbent, Sklar on Friday issued a press release criticizing Paul’s vote against a $51.8 billion disaster relief package for Hurricane Katrina victims. Paul was one of 11 congressmen who voted against the package.
“No single vote could better show how Ron Paul’s time has come and gone,” Sklar said. “Like so many times in his eight terms in Congress, Ron Paul only wanted to make a meaningless philosophical point while the rest of the country wants to come to the aid of the victims of Katrina.”
What is Rep. Paul saying for himself?
Paul defended his vote by issuing a statement blasting the government for spending more money on a system he said has “failed spectacularly.”
“In several disasters that have befallen my Gulf Coast district, my constituents have over and over again told me that they prefer to rebuild and recover without the help of federal agencies like FEMA, which so often impose their own bureaucratic solutions on the owners or private property,” Paul said in the statement.
Paul instead called on Congress to send federal dollars directly to victims or to community organizations dedicated to clean-up and reconstruction.
And despite his rather weak protestations, at least Paul does have some principle on which to stand. What's Smoky Joe Barton's excuse?
Barton press secretary Karen Modlin said in a statement that Barton supports providing food, shelter and clothing to the hurricane victims but wants to make sure that federal funds are spent properly where they are needed.
"While he is supportive of the $10.5 billion in emergency funding provided last week, he believes that the bill before the House yesterday throws more than $50 billion at the problem without first sufficiently assessing needs and ensuring adequate safeguards are established for how the money is spent," Modlin said.
"It is critical that the federal government provide hurricane victims with assistance while being good stewards of hard-earned taxpayer dollars."
Seriously, whatever Smoky Joe is trying to say here, the same holds true of him as it does of Ron Paul: Where's his alternative plan? Unlike Ron Paul, Joe Barton is a loyal Republican team player who has the ear of the DeLays and Hasterts and can make things happen if he wants to. Where was he when this bill was being written? Why do so few of his colleagues share his concerns? If this is the best he can do, it's pretty pitiful.
On a related note, Rep. Lamar Smith held a town hall meeting in Austin on Saturday morning and ran into some hostile questions about Katrina relief, among other things.
In the wake of the hurricane, he said almost everything else on the legislative agenda has had to be shelved. He discussed how the judicial committee has had to address legislation to permit federal courts based in New Orleans to hear cases outside their juristiction, and noted that many other committees are having to address similar issues never before considered.
Asked how Hurricane Katrina will affect the Congress' legislative priorities, and whether this should require a shift away from tax cuts, Smith said, "Yes, mostly." He said he believes that tax cuts do (or can) spike the economy, but remarked, "Realistically, the estate tax will not be repealed this year."
At this point, a man with silver hair stood up. "Representative Smith," he said firmly, "I have been a Republican since the early 1960's." Oh, no, I thought, here it comes - shill time. This guy had to be part of the crowd called in by the Travis County Republican Party this morning to give Smith some cover.
"I pay a lot for taxes," he continued, "and I consider it a social investment. I am outraged! When this catastrophe hit, the president's response was that we should 'give to private charity.' I am outraged that this party can't support our country. We can't deal with our own self-defense. You need to fire Chertoff and these FEMA clowns. What are you doing with our tax dollars?!"
At this point, the audience broke into applause. Smith, sticking to message, said it will be investigated: "We don't care who's responsible, we just want to find out who's responsible."
This is an important point for the Democratic party to pursue - that taxpayers did not get their money's worth with this Republican administration. This may attract outraged voters like this man.