Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Disaster Funding Bill Stalls In the US Senate Over GOP Opposition

As you know we've been dealing with the cleanup from Hurricane Irene (affecting the coast from NC on up through Vermont) and then the follow-up deluge from the remnants from TS Lee, which hit upstate NY, PA, and parts of NJ real hard.

The feds have to get funding for FEMA straightened out, because the FEMA coffers have run low due to the high number of natural disasters and to provide coverage to affected taxpayers and residents.

So what has happened? The bill funding the FEMA response has stalled in the Senate after coming up short on the latest vote. The GOP can't be bothered to fund this, although some GOPers in districts affected by the disasters are starting to put pressure on the leadership:
Gov. Chris Christie has said the storm caused billions of dollars worth of damage in New Jersey, and has promised to fight for disaster relief, even if it meant taking on his own party.

"We need the support now here in New Jersey, and that is not a Republican or a Democratic issue," Christie said after touring flood-damaged Lincoln Park. "I don’t want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of."

The governor could not be reached for comment tonight.

Irene, and the ensuing flooding, caused extensive damage throughout the state [NJ - ed], with more than 31,000 residents filing claims through FEMA to help pay for damage. And nearly $38 million has been disbursed so far. FEMA regional spokesman Bill McDonnell says the hardest-hit areas were Bergen and Passaic, with each topping 4,000 claims.

Democrats had hoped the $7 billion bill would replenish FEMA, which has spent almost $400 million in the past two weeks on emergency food and shelter, said Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev). FEMA has only about $300 million left in its coffers, he said.

President Obama on Friday asked Congress for $500 million to ensure the disaster fund doesn’t run out of cash before the end of the month.

Several Republicans have asked the disaster spending be offset by reductions in other areas.

"I plan to insist my fellow senators take a long, hard look at where the funding comes from," U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said today before the vote. "Will it be more borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren, or will it be from the coffers of our numerous nation-building programs overseas? America’s priorities should come first."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), has said Republicans will attach a disaster-aid package to a continuing resolution, necessary to avoid a government shutdown before the end of the month.

That measure, which is likely to be brought up next week, would give the Senate another chance to vote on disaster relief, but it remains unclear if there are enough votes for passage.

Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) sent a letter to John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday, asking him to ensure FEMA is adequately funded.
There's some borrowing that is good - like when you borrow money for a mortgage, so that you have a place to live. Other borrowing makes little sense, like when you use credit cards and don't bother to pay the minimum. The FEMA funding is the former category - it's critical and essential, rather than living beyond our means. The FEMA funding is to make sure that folks and businesses can get back up and running - that would increase tax revenues all around as the money flows back into state, local, and federal coffers.

The GOP has been itching for a fight on funding government spending and thus far, they managed to kill $250 million for the FAA because they refused to reauthorize the FAA taxes that fund its operations over the need to reform the rural air program, that costs a fraction of the $250 million lost - annually. Pennywise and pound foolish then, and they're doing the same thing now.

The cost of doing nothing, and allowing the FEMA funding to run dry will mean that residents all along the East Coast will be out of luck - and that means that small businesses will lose business, close up, and end up costing even more as unemployment rates climb higher and tax revenues drop once again.

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