Many progressives probably would say they knew all along that U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) was a tool. But this spring's tornadoes in Alabama, and their aftermath, should erase any doubt.
As we reported earlier this month, Alabama's entire Republican delegation in Congress--including Bachus--voted against funding for satellites that are a critical component of accurate weather forecasting. News of Bachus' vote broke about a week after tornadoes killed more than 230 people in Alabama.
That did not keep Bachus from touring areas devastated by the tornadoes and issuing somber statements that made it appear he actually cares about the safety of Alabama citizens. But the 10-term Congressman is having an increasingly difficult time running from his vote on weather satellites. As a resident of Bachus' district, I've become disgusted that Democrats have not been able to mount a challenge to Bachus since 1998. But Bachus now has gift-wrapped an issue with which an able Democrat should be able to beat him about the head. Will a progressive step up to the plate and give Spencer Bachus a much-deserved boot to the curt in 2012? Time will tell.
But for now, this much is clear: Spencer Bachus stuck by his "conservative principles" and voted to cut federal spending at the expense of accurate weather forecasting in Alabama and elsewhere. That could cost thousands of American lives in an age where tornadoes seem to be hitting with increasing frequency and ferocity. (See Missouri, Joplin.) Spencer Bachus needs to pay a political price for his arrogance and shortsightedness.
To no one's surprise, Alabama's right-wing mainstream press has been trying to provide cover for Bachus and his Republican buddies in Congress. Mary Orndorff, of The Birmingham News, reported on May 8 about the gap in satellite coverage. Orndorff wrote that Janet Lubchenko, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), had confirmed the gap--and it was caused by deep cuts this spring in the fiscal 2011 budget. Orndorff then included this passage about Bachus:
U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, said Lubchenko told him about the gap in satellite coverage while they were visiting the weather service office in Calera last weekend after the storms.
"I said that I would work to minimize if not eliminate any delays or disruptions in the launch of this new system which would provide enhanced coverage and protection," Bachus said Friday. "This issue has not received the attention it needs and it is something that we should work on in a bipartisan way."