By Mike Lillis - 09/15/11 04:52 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted Republicans Thursday for insisting that emergency disaster funding be offset with cuts to other federal programs.
The California Democrat said the funding proposal, introduced by GOP leaders late Wednesday, sets “a dangerous precedent” that threatens a longstanding bond between Congress and the people it serves.
“We have a compact with the American people that in time of natural disaster we are there — the public sector is there — to help them,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “To say that we have to offset it takes us down a different path.”
“We are setting, I think, a dangerous — and I use that word purposefully — a dangerous precedent by saying that our disaster assistance must be offset,” she said. “This has never been [the case].”
As part of their stopgap spending bill to fund the government until Nov. 18, GOP leaders have proposed $3.7 billion in emergency disaster aid. One billion dollars would be available immediately, divided between the Army Corps of Engineers ($226 million) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency ($774 million).
By contrast, Senate Democrats are pushing nearly $7 billion in emergency disaster funds.
To offset the immediate funding, the GOP proposal would cut $1.5 trillion from a Department of Energy program — the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan initiative — designed to help the nation's carmakers increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets.
Republican leaders say the package will help the victims of the recent disasters while continuing the party's recent commitment to deficit reduction.
“This is a straightforward bill that keeps our focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, and eliminates the uncertainty caused by the specter of a government shutdown,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday in a statement.
Pelosi disagrees, warning that the cuts to the fuel-efficiency program not only threaten to delay the disaster funds, but also jeopardize a technology program that's making the country more competitive.
“All the research that's going to keep America number one is going to be affected by this,” she said. “To take the money from there is to take the money from the future [and] diminish our competitiveness internationally.
“I think it's a very bad choice, as do my members,” Pelosi added.
Asked if she thought the GOP's stopgap proposal will pass the House, Pelosi said the burden is on the majority.
"That depends," she said with a chuckle, "on how many Republican votes it gets."