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GOP Congressman Michael Cloud's a "NO" on 9/11 Aid

GOP Congressman Michael Cloud—He’s a “NO” on Aiding 9/11 First Responders July 21, 2019

September 11, 2001, 9/11. Who among us does not remember where we were at that time? Who among us does not have seared into our minds the images of the World Trade Center (WTC) Twin Towers being hit by Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda extremist terrorists and the horrible pictures of innocent human beings jumping to their deaths from the burning top floors? At least 2,753 people died at the WTC site on 9/11 (cnn.com, “September 11th Fast Facts,” 3/2715). Those WTC victims, first responders, and others at “Ground Zero” on 9/11 were not the only ones murdered in this monstrous terrorist attack. According to the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund about 2,100 people have died of health-related issues related to these attacks, particularly first responders. These first responders include policemen, firemen, and emergency workers. In fact, it is expected that by 9/11’s 20th anniversary in 2021, more people will have died from 9/11-related illnesses than died at the Twin Towers on the day of the attack (PIX, Seattle Times).

In 2011, the federal government opened a $7.3 billion Sept. 11th Victims Compensation Fund for emergency responders and their families to compensate for deaths and illnesses related to toxic exposure from the terrorist-related aircraft 9/11 attacks and the cleanup during the immediate aftermath. So far, about 21,000 claimants have received some $5 billion and about an additional 19,000 claims are pending. This fund is projected to be depleted by the end of 2020. To redeem new claims and prevent reductions in prior ones, the House Judiciary Committee endorsed a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Long Island, NY GOP Cong. Peter King and Manhattan, NY Dem. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to extend the fund for decades (Roberts, S., nytimes.com, 6/29/19). On 6/11/2019, NY City Detective Luis G. Alvarez (53) publicly pleaded with Congress to extend health benefits to police officers, firefighters, and other emergency workers who responded to the 9/11 attacks. Alvarez was then dying of colorectal cancer that had been diagnosed in 2016. His malignancy was linked to the three months he had spent at the site of the toppled World Trade Center towers. Alvarez had searched for survivors and the remains of his fellow officers on nearby rooftops and in the toxic “Ground Zero” rubble. Detective Alvarez appeared alongside Jon Stewart, the former host of “The Daily Show,” who also delivered a passionate call for justice on behalf of the victims. Alvarez was supposed to receive his 69th round of chemo the next day but became too disoriented to get it. He died in a Long Island, NY hospice on 6/29/19 (nytimes.com, Roberts).

On 7/12/2019, the Democratic House overwhelmingly passed the measure to reauthorize the 9/11 victims’ compensation bill by a 402-12 vote. No Democrat voted against this measure but 11 GOPers were in the “NAY” column, as well as libertarian Justin Amash (MI) who just left the GOP. One of the “Team Red” members voting against this morally needed bill was Rep. Michael Cloud (shareblue.com, Willis, O., 7/12/19). Who is this Cong. Cloud?

Second-term GOP Congressman Michael Cloud (44) currently represents TX’s 27th Congressional District (CD). The TX 27th is centered in the Corpus Christi area. Nearly half of the Lone Star 27th ‘s population lives in Nueces County where Corpus Christi is located. Corpus Christi is the eighth-most populous city in TX with a 2016 population of about 325, 733. The post-2010 census redistricting significantly changed the 27th’s boundaries. Prior to this redistricting, Corpus Christi constituted the northern edge of the 27th CD which then stretched south to the Mexican border. After 2010, Corpus Christi is located at the 27th’s southern end. The new 27th includes most of the Gulf Coast north of Corpus Christi, up to the outskirts of Houston’s suburbs. Victoria, with a population of about 63,000, is the 27th’s only other sizeable town. The 27th covers seven Gulf Coast bays. The 27th runs through Matagorda and Wharton Counties. At Lavaca County, this CD swings to the northwest through Caldwell and Bastrop Counties, outside Austin. The city of Gonzales is part of the 27th as well as the city of Wharton, where former CBS News anchor Dan Rather grew up (Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs, census.gov).

The 27th CD is economically bolstered by oil and gas, petrochemicals, fishing, agriculture, and manufacturing. DuPont, Union Carbide, and Alcoa have plants in the 27th. Many members of the military earn their wings at Corpus Christi’s Naval Air Station. Victoria and Corpus Christi are rail hubs. The port of Corpus Christi is the fifth-largest in the U.S. (Barone & CQ 14, texasstandard.org). Politically, the redrawn 27th is solidly GOP with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+13 (4/07/17, cookpolitical.com). Following the 2010 redistricting, “The Hill” magazine found TX GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold, who then represented the TX 27th , to be #1 on the list of the Top Ten House Members helped by this congressional redrawing (Ballotpedia.org/Texas %27th). In 2016, Donald clobbered Hillary in the 27th by a 23.6 margin (projects.fivethirtyeight.com).

Baton Rouge, LA native Michael Cloud graduated from OK’s fundamentalist Oral Roberts University with a 1997 BS in communications. He was a digital marketing company founder. He served as chair of the Victoria County TX Republican Party from 5/2010-5/2017 (rollcall.com/news, Svitek, P., 6/30/18, texastribune.org, CQ 116th Congress At Your Fingertips). With the endorsement of libertarian Ron Paul, a former GOP Congressman who had previously represented part of this district and with financial help from the hard-right Club for Growth, Cloud won the GOP runoff for the regularly scheduled 11/2018 election. When Cong. Blake Farenthold resigned amid controversy over settling a sexual harassment lawsuit with public money, Cloud won the 6/30/2018 special election for the 27th CD. He defeated his Democratic rival by 23 points and was sworn in on 7/10/2018. In the 11/2018 election, Cloud coasted to an easy re-election victory, getting 60% of the vote (texastribune.com, 7/01/18, 7/10/18, CQ 116th Congress At Your Fingertips). Hard right Koch Industries gave Cloud at least $10,000 (sourcewatch.org/index/Koch candidates).

In the House, Cloud sits on the Oversight & Reform and the Science, Space & Technology Committees. In both the 115th and the current 116th Congress, he has voted with Demagogue Donald nearly 91% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com). Cong. Cloud is a member of the Republican Study Committee, RSC (Ballotpedia.org). The RSC is the most conservative bloc and dominant force within the House Republican caucus (CQ14). However, being a member of the RSC is not enough for Cong. Cloud. He is also part of the smaller extreme right Freedom Caucus. This group bragged about helping oust conservative GOP Speaker John Boehner from that post and from Congress. It pushed former GOP Speaker Paul Ryan further to the right. Its members are extremely conservative, libertarian, and sympathetic to the anti-government Tea Party movement (See Taylor, T., 1/28/15, hngn.com, foxnews.com, 12/10/16, Ferrechio, S., washingtonexaminer.com, 1/26/15). Cong. Cloud and fellow TX hard-right Congressman Jodey Arrington from the Lubbock 19th CD have voted with each other 96% of the time. Arrington was another member of the GOP Gang of 11 “Vote ‘NO’ For First Responders” crew (projectspropublica.com, shareblue.com, Willis, 7/12/19).

We should not be surprised by Cong. Cloud’s heartless vote against 9/11 first responders and their families. He is strongly anti-choice. He has called Roe v. Wade a “monstrous” decision that should be overturned. He wants Congress to take all steps possible to limit legal abortions and supports a constitutional amendment making abortion illegal. He is against any tax increases. He wants to reduce spending. Translation: harsh ideology rules over helping victims hurt in a terrorist tragedy. Cong. Cloud is against campaign finance laws and calls them ineffective. Translation: let Koch et al give me all the money I need. Cong. Cloud wants to roll back regulations that “hold back” our economy. Translation: get rid of federal safety regulations that protect our air and water. Cong. Cloud says Americans are “safer” today from gun crime than at any time since the 1960’s (What’s he smoking?) and the Supreme Ct. should recognize the rights of citizens to carry arms nationwide. According to Cloud, neither federal nor state governments may impose any requirement making the process of acquiring arms burdensome. Cloud is for repealing Obamacare and getting the federal government out of health care decisions. Get it? TX, which refuses to expand Medicaid for many of its citizens, should run its health care “reform.” Cloud is for building a wall where needed to secure the southern border and for more increased border patrol presence. He is for Congress cutting federal funds to sanctuary cities that ban law enforcement from enforcing immigration laws. Never mind that Hispanics constitute at least 51.65% of his TX 27th (See votesmart.org). Cong. Cloud can safely ignore them in this heavily “Red” gerrymandered district. With extreme political gerrymandering now approved by the Supreme Ct., Cong. Cloud can keep winning the 27th short of a damaging personal scandal like his predecessor Farenthold faced.

The overwhelmingly-passed 9/11 first responders bill, despite Cloud’s “NAY,” now moves to the U.S. Senate. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been dragging his feet on this issue. After being publicly shamed by comedian Jon Stewart, McConnell, who proudly calls himself the “Grim Reaper” of Democratic House legislation, finally met with 9/11 first responders (See shareblue.com, Martin, 7/12/19,”The Hill,” Carney, 4/22/19). Meeting with first responders constitutes symbolism. McConnell will have to be dragged by a massive public outcry into putting this bill to a floor vote. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), the son of former TX GOP Cong. Ron Paul who backed Cloud, and Mike Lee (R-UT) are currently holding up this bill while McConnell dallies. Sens. Paul and Lee are holding this bill hostage to get more radical federal budget cuts (See rollcall.com, 7/17/19, Lesniewski, N., cnn.com, Kelly, C., 7/17/19). Ultimately, the only way to make sure this bill and similar ones are cleanly and quickly passed is to keep the House “Blue.” Cong. Cloud would, therefore, remain an extremist outlier. In 11/2020, Democrats and moderates must also vote in droves to recapture the Senate, ejecting “Grim Reaper” McConnell from his Majority Leadership seat.