Katrina wasn’t an emergency?

KATRINA WASN’T AN EMERGENCY?…. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), a far-right lawmaker from Tennessee, was on the House floor this morning, extolling the virtues of a balanced budget and PAYGO rules. Blackburn lost sight of these concerns during the Bush/Cheney years, but there’s a lot of that going around.

But as part of her speech, Blackburn said PAYGO rules are not, in and of themselves, good enough, because lawmakers can point to emergencies or crises that occasionally warrant exceptions to the spending rules. That, Blackburn said, is the problem.

“Let’s agree that we’re going to have PAYGO enforcement,” she told her colleagues. “That we’re not going to cry ’emergency’ every time we have a Katrina, every time we have a tsunami, every time we have a need for extra spending, that we don’t go call for a special appropriation that allows us to circumvent the PAYGO rules.”

This is awfully nutty. Chris Harris reminds us that Hurricane Katrina killed 1,464 people in Louisiana alone. “While we can all appreciate the benefits of a balanced budget, those benefits pale in comparison to the virtues of saving lives in the midst of an actual emergency. If saving thousands of lives costs a few extra dollars, so be it. That’s why it’s an ’emergency.'”

I’m curious what Blackburn would say the next time there is a catastrophe on U.S. soil. “Sorry, PAYGO is more important than the emergency”?

Republican lawmakers are supposed to have some kind of internal check, reminding them to turn down the crazy while speaking in public. It’s amazing how often that check doesn’t work.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.