House Dems urge clean vote on unfunded disaster aid

House Democrats are pressing GOP leaders to bring a quick vote on Senate-passed legislation that would provide nearly $7 billion in emergency disaster aid without cuts to other federal programs.

Behind Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), 69 lawmakers on Tuesday urged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to scrap their plans to consider a much smaller aid package — including offsets — and take up the Senate bill immediately.

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The funding included in the House version, Democrats maintain, "does not provide sufficient resources needed to respond to Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and the wildfires in Texas, let alone other disasters that may occur in the next two months."

In their recently released continuing resolution (CR), GOP leaders included almost $3.7 billion in new disaster funds, most of which would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. Republicans have proposed to offset the most immediate allocations by slashing $1.5 billion from a Democratic program that subsidizes fuel-efficient vehicles and other green technologies.

The $6.9 billion provided by the Senate Democratic proposal is not offset by changes elsewhere in the budget.

The House Democrats contend the victims of recent disasters don't have time to wait for another drawn-out partisan battle over budget pay-fors.

"The families that remain without homes in shelters are not interested in seeing more gridlock in Washington. The farmers who lost their crops and livestock do not care about debates over deficits and offsets," the Democrats wrote in a letter to Boehner and Cantor.

"Whenever a natural disaster has occurred in the past, this government has come to the aid and assistance of those affected," they added. "This time should be no different."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) delivered a similar message Tuesday, noting that Democratic leaders always supported unfunded emergency aid under the Bush administration.

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"Eight times under George Bush, we responded to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, other disasters — fires — and we did so by emergency funding," Hoyer said. "The Republicans supported President Bush's request for that, [and] we think they ought to support President Obama's request for that."

Hoyer also criticized the GOP's $1.5 billion offset provision, arguing that it would be "counterproductive to growth in jobs and to growth in the economy."

GOP leaders have defended the offsets in the CR, with Boehner characterizing the proposal as "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."

The House is expected to vote on the CR on Wednesday.