By Erik Wasson
The conservative Republican sponsor of the most important amendment to the Hurricane Sandy relief bill said Tuesday he sees little chance it can pass.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has offered an amendment to the base bill to offset the $17 billion in aid with spending cuts. His amendment would apply a 1.63 percent cut to all discretionary spending.
“I think it is an uphill battle,” he said. “By allowing the one with defense cuts, that is going to drive some people away.”
Almost all Democrats and northeast Republicans are expected to oppose the Mulvaney amendment. Adding in appropriators who crafted the base bill and GOP defense hawks would likely kill it.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations Defense subcommittee, told reporters Tuesday he would vote against Mulvaney's amendment because it would cut military pay.
Mulvaney had offered targeted spending cut offsets, including the elimination of free transportation benefits for federal workers, but that amendment was not allowed to go forward.
“Let’s look at the glass half full: at least we are having the debate,” he said. “Would I have preferred to have a vote on the targeted cuts? Sure. People say they prefer targeted cuts.”
Mulvaney said he was not given a reason why his amendment or those of other conservatives were not allowed votes.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Conservatives are trying to establish a principle that emergency spending needs to be paid for. Supporters of the Sandy bill say that the tradition has been not to offset disaster aid.
Most of the rejected amendments would have made deep cuts to the spending in the bill. For example, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) proposed amendments that would have slashed $22 billion from the total package, but none of them were accepted by the committee.
McClintock blasted his own party on the House floor during a debate on the rule for blocking his amendments.
"Republicans were supposed to change the way things were done around here. Clearly we have not," he said.
On Monday, northeast lawmakers warned that allowing too many amendments would be seen as a violation of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Jan. 2 promise to them that Sandy aid would get fast-track treatment in the new Congress.
The conservative Club for Growth on Tuesday announced that it is key voting the Mulvaney amendment in its annual scorecard. A vote against the amendment would hurt a member’s rating and could help to invite a primary challenge.
Updated at 3:54 p.m.