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Congressman Tom Garrett

Representing the 5th District of Virginia

Harvey relief, yes - but not by perpetuating the swamp (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

September 7, 2017
In The News

As a newcomer to Congress, I cannot help but recall my frustration — as a citizen — at how things worked, or perhaps didn’t work in Washington. Politicians rarely demonstrated the willingness to say “no” to the next good idea, whether it was something that should or had previously been within the enumerated role of the federal legislature or not.

This thinking brought us the federal dominance in the heretofore state and local arena of education and there was a correlating drop in the achievement of American students versus global competition. It gave us the Obama years, when the president who famously referred to $7 trillion in debt as “unpatriotic” oversaw a near tripling of that debt in just eight years, and officially accrued more debt in a span of two terms than our nation had seen in more than 200 years combined. It got us a health care plan that we had to pass to see what was in it, and it exists while laws on marijuana and immigration are selectively enforced when they are enforced at all.

But that was all to have changed. We were going to “drain the swamp”!

Fast-forward to today. The president has agreed to couple a clean increase in our nation’s authority to grow its $20 trillion in debt with relief money for the devastation and victims of Hurricane Harvey. (As an aside, $20 trillion is 20 thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand dollars.) This is not draining the swamp. This is perpetuating it. This is a plan to grow the very wetlands that this White House pledged to dry up.

I’ve heard House leadership doesn’t want to do it this way, but has no choice — but I promise you unless Trump is both the president and the speaker of the House, no vote will come to the floor on a bill House leadership opposes.

This sort of thing is just another reason the Founders gave us separate branches of government, and is a great example of the grade school lesson on checks and balances.

So the political thought goes that no member would dare oppose relief for victims of what is, in terms of dollars, the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history.

Well, I don’t oppose the relief, I support it — but the narrative that such aid can be accomplished only by forfeiting our responsibility to be good stewards of tax dollars and bend down an unsustainable spending curve that is an extistential threat to life in America as we know it is not only false, it is downright swamp-like.

This effort, like so many other things, threatens to appear as an omnibus package. Not a single subject, but a package of good and bad things, rammed through, with an unspoken dare that someone might speak out.

Well, challenge accepted. I want Harvey relief. I want it as soon as possible, but I won’t sit by idly and wish that things were done the way the Founders intended. I will speak out: This is ridiculous. This is swamp-like. This needs to end, and if saying so has a political cost, so be it.

Simply put, if this legislative pattern and tactic continues, we as a nation will find ourselves omni-busted.