GOP splits over pork funding in Sandy aid
The House on Tuesday approved $17 billion in emergency spending to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy plus a controversial measure to add another $33 billion in what numerous Republican lawmakers labeled as extraneous pork measures.
The $17 billion bill provides immediate assistance and was passed 241 yeas to 180 nays with 49 Republicans voting against it.
The additional $33 billion sponsored by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) was approved on a vote of 228 yeas to 192 nays with 38 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.
Combined with more than $9 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program the House approved earlier this month that brings the total for aid to more than $60 billion. The Senate is expected to pass the bill by next week and then signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Splitting up the spending into two bills gave fiscal conservatives cover to vote for what they called necessary spending, the $17 billion, but not what they described as superfluous spending sponsored by Frelinghuysen.
The $17 billion included $5.4 billion for FEMA to provide immediate relief to families and pay for temporary housing, debris removal and crisis counseling. Another $5.4 billion went to major transportation agencies in New York and New Jersey, $3.9 billion to repair damages to publicly owned hospitals, roads and utilities, $1.35 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers, $287 million for national parks, $235 million for veteran facilities, $32 million for Amtrak and $6 million to replenish and stock food banks and soup kitchens.
“We should not have to beg for money to survive,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said Republicans had no misgivings for providing disaster relief, but did not want to act irresponsibly.
The Frelinghuysen amendment contained questionable spending including $500 million for weather forecasting and to help create an ocean zoning plan – the later one of Obama’s pet projects. Also included are $10 million for FBI salaries
$2 billion for road construction across the country, as well as funding for the Head Start program, roof repairs at the Smithsonian, and $150 million for fisheries across the country.
“They porked it down thinking they could pull one over on the House of Representatives,” Mica said.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) defended the fishery funding, saying it was caused by the same calamity that created Hurricane Sandy – climate change.
“We should honor the social compact we have with the American people,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “We know that every day is too long to wait.”
Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) successfully amended the bill to kill $150 million in funding for Obama’s ambitious plan to zone the ocean on a vote of 221 yeas to 197 nays.
“This is not about stopping Sandy relief or putting roofs over people’s heads,” Flores said. “This is an inappropriate use of funding in the middle of a crisis to try and carry out something this Congress never authorized.”
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) called Flores’s bill a “misguided amendment” that would impair scientists’ understanding of changing shorelines.
That money would have gone to a regional ocean partnership to help begin implementation of Obama’s highly controversial National Ocean Policy, which Human Events reported last year, seeks to create a new Washington bureaucracy to oversea fisheries and energy development.
However, an amendment allowing a 1.63 percent cut across the board sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and supported by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) was defeated, 162 yeas to 258 nays with seven Republicans voting no.
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the amendment contained “devastating slash and burn cuts” that would “totally discriminate, cutting the good and the bad.”
Mulvaney said the measure was not about whether victims of the Oct. 29 super storm desperately needed money, but how the American taxpayer was going to pay for it.
Interestingly, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia voted for the measure, however key Republicans voting no included Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Budget Committee chairman, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) sponsored an amendment that successfully blocked the Interior and Agriculture secretaries from using the emergency funding to purchase private property to add to the massive federal inventory.
“Land acquisition does not qualify as emergency nor immediate hurricane relief,” Bishop said.