After a fierce response to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio)
decision to delay consideration of relief legislation for victims of
Hurricane Sandy, the House went ahead and voted Friday on the bill to
raise the borrowing authority of the National Flood Insurance Program so
it could continue paying the 140,000 claims it has received but has yet
to complete. What the vote showed, despite its easy passage 354-67, was
just how emergencies are not only no longer bipartisan, but how they
are dividing conservatives.
What has long been a tradition of deficit spending for disasters is being called into question amid the ongoing political battle over government spending as the two parties move away from the fiscal-cliff fight but prepare and position for the coming debt-ceiling-increase debate. The "no" votes on the $9.7 billion Sandy relief bill passed Friday came from Republicans including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who agreed with the Club for Growth and other conservatives arguing even the NFIP could not be bailed out when the U.S. government is saddling so much debt. But another $51 billion Sandy relief bill is scheduled for consideration when Congress returns on Jan. 15, and the debate of whether and how these bills can be "offset" will return.
The money is hard to come by, but these days natural disasters are not. The last few years have shown record-setting federal declarations of disasters and on disaster relief spending from hurricanes and tropical storms, droughts, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes.
As Congress reviews the numbers once more before the debt-ceiling debate, where will "emergencies" fit in?
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