Many conservatives dislike the idea, but Sen. John McCain could win over some crucial support if he responds correctly to the President’s call for a massive federal effort to rebuild New Orleans.
After reading Friday’s New York Times, I’d say he and a few other GOPers are off to a good start. Here’s a look:
G.O.P. Split Over Big Plans for Storm Spending
By CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 – The drive to pour tens of billions of federal dollars into rebuilding the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast is widening a fissure among Republicans over fiscal policy, with more of them expressing worry about unbridled spending.
On Thursday, even before President Bush promised that “federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone,” fiscal conservatives from the House and Senate joined budget watchdog groups in demanding that the administration be judicious in asking for taxpayer dollars.
One fiscal conservative, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said Thursday, “I don’t believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana.”
Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, called for restoring “sanity” to the federal recovery effort. Congress has approved $62 billion, mostly to cover costs already incurred, and the price tag is rising. The House and Senate approved tax relief Thursday at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion on top of $3.5 billion in housing vouchers approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
“We know we need to help, but throwing more and more money without accountability at this is not going to solve the problem,” Mr. DeMint said.
Their comments were in marked contrast to the sweeping administration approach outlined by Mr. Bush in his speech from New Orleans and a call by Senate Republican leaders for a rebuilding effort similar to the Marshall Plan after World War II. Congressional Democrats advocated their own comprehensive recovery program Thursday, promoting a combination of rebuilding programs coupled with housing, health care, agriculture and education initiatives. The president also emphasized the importance of private entrepreneurship to create jobs “and help break the cycle of poverty.”
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said he believed that providing rapid and extensive help overrode the need to cut spending elsewhere. “I think we have to understand that we have a devastation that has to be taken care of,” Mr. Reid said. “And I’m not into finding where we can cut yet.”
That mindset is troubling to other lawmakers who fear that in addition to a reborn Gulf Coast, something else will rise from the storm: record federal deficits.
“We know this is a huge bill,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “We don’t want to lay it on future generations.” Given the fierce political backlash to the stumbling relief effort in the days after the hurricane struck, House Republican leaders have been reluctant to stand in the way of any emergency legislation. After the speech, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert acknowledged that the price tag means that “for every dollar we spend on this, it is going to take a little bit longer to balance the budget.” He said he was willing to listen to ideas to pay for the aid, but, “Quite frankly, we have to get this job done.”