The Senate on Tuesday failed to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government funded as Mitch McConnell and other Republicans insisted on keeping corporate political funding hidden from voters and denying aid to the beleaguered residents of Flint, MI. Senators have been working in recent days on hammering out a short-term funding bill known as a continuing resolution that would fund the government until December 9 at the least. Absent such an agreement, the federal government will run out of money and shut down in three days on October 1.
The intransigence of Senate Republicans on the issues of corporate financing and aid to Flint, however, have prevented the bill from passing as the Senate shot down a GOP continuing resolution today by a 55-45 vote. The first sticking point is a rider that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted on adding to the bill and which would block the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC) from requiring publicly-traded corporations to disclose their political spending.
Ever since the Citizens United decision of 2010, corporate donors have been able to make unlimited political donations without disclosing any information on their political spending to the public. This has led to an unprecedented influx of corporate and big donor money in American elections – close to $700 million so far this year – and has served Republicans and their big-money donors quite well. So well, in fact, that Senate Republicans are willing to sacrifice the functioning of the government itself just to be able to keep the nefarious sources of their campaign financing secret and please the oligarchs who pull their strings.
Clashes have also arisen over Republican refusal to include in the bill aid to the city of Flint, MI, which is still suffering from the effects of a neoconservative-engineered lead poisoning crisis. The bill already includes flood aid for flood victims in Maryland, West Virginia, and Louisiana, and Democrats have requested that aid for the victims of the water crisis in Flint be included as well. Republicans, however, have refused to add this money, and have come up with a variety of facetious justifications for their indifference to the sufferings of poor African-Americans, from claiming that the Flint crisis is a local issue to deciding that the Flint aid should be included in the separate Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) instead.
The problem with that excuse is that Democrats have already tried to pass the Flint aid through WRDA but came up against the same wall of Republican intransigence and indifference there. The Senate successfully passed a version of the WRDA earlier this year that included more than $220 million in aid and infrastructure improvements for Flint. Paul Ryan and his band of extremist Republicans in the House, however, stripped the Flint aid provision from the House version of the WRDA, and the discrepancy between the bills would have to be settled in conference committee negotiations after the November election, and the dominance of hardline Republicans in the House makes it very unlikely that such a settlement would include aid to Flint.
So, once again, Republicans, for whom compromise and good governance seem to be alien concepts, are sending the federal government hurtling down the path to shutdown for absolutely no good reason. The issues underlying this most recent case of intransigence, however, demonstrate more clearly than ever the degree to which many Republicans have ceased to serve the people they are elected to protect and instead devote all of their efforts to aiding their corporate sponsors. If the health and livelihood of this nation’s oppressed minorities have to be sacrificed in the process, these Republicans won’t bat an eye.
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James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.