01.16.2013 1

The hurricane relief bill disaster

Photo Credit: NASA

By Robert Romano — On Jan. 15, the House of Representatives easily passed legislation costing more than $50 billion legislation that would, in part, fund disaster relief for communities deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The trouble is that the House had an opportunity to pay for the core $17 billion for disaster assistance — but took a pass.

An amendment offered by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) would have paid for these core provisions with offsetting spending cuts to 1.6 percent of the discretionary budget. But 71 Republicans voted with Democrats to defeat that measure.

“This is truly a shame,” Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson responded. “After all the wrangling on sequestration about reducing the deficit, the moment Congress has a pork-laden bill they refuse to pay for it.”

He said those who refused to pay for the disaster assistance were “hiding behind those most hurt by Hurricane Sandy to facilitate a special interest agenda.”

A claim that is hard to contend with.

Heritage Action noted some of the more egregious pork in the bill: “repairs to the Smithsonian Institution to upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes to more funding for the federal government’s epic educational failure known as Head Start, among myriad other extraneous items.  The inclusion of $16 billion in wasteful community development funds is also concerning, especially because the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated it would need a comparatively much smaller $5.2 billion for its ‘unmet needs.’”

Even worse is that more than 94 amendments that might have addressed all this waste were killed by the House Rules Committee, which is run by Republicans.

Before the vote on the Mulvaney amendment, Wilson had expressed disappointment with that committee: “It is disheartening and sad to see the House Rules Committee block many amendments that would have trimmed billions of pork from the hurricane disaster relief bill that had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy.”

Wilson wondered what this display might foretell for the future of sequestration and other spending cuts that have been promised to the American people.

After all, how can we expect Congress to ever cut spending when before Obama is even inaugurated for his second term, they are piling on the debt?

If this is a leading indicator of how Republicans might address the debt ceiling, perhaps the American people should not hold high expectations for any significant spending cuts or entitlement reforms.

“There is no excuse for hiding behind families whose lives were destroyed by this hurricane to pass yet another wasteful, special interest bill,” Wilson declared, concluding, “The process of using disaster relief to hand out favors to special interests is despicable and must be brought to an end. It is the sort of process the American people loathe and repudiated in 2010 when they brought House Republicans into the majority.”

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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