House GOP defeats Dem effort to amend disaster-aid funding

House Republicans on Wednesday quashed a Democratic effort to scuttle the GOP's disaster-aid proposal in favor of a Senate plan that doesn't force cuts to other federal programs.

Sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the Rules Committee, the proposal would have killed the Republican provision for $3.7 billion in disaster aid – largely offset by cutting a clean-vehicle program – and replace it with $6.9 billion in emergency relief passed by the Senate last week.

With a procedural vote, the Republicans denied Democrats a chance to vote on the Slaughter amendment.

The Democratic concerns with the GOP proposal are three-fold. First, they contend the $3.7 billion in disaster relief is insufficient to address the series of natural disasters that have hit the country in recent weeks. Second, they oppose the very concept of offsetting emergency funding, saying it sets a dangerous precedent that could delay needed relief for victims of future disasters. And third, they object to the GOP's particular offset, which would gut a program designed to bolster fuel efficiency technologies for the nation's auto manufacturers.

"The offset is a bad policy in and of itself," Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, told reporters Wednesday morning.

Slaughter went after Republicans on Wednesday for insisting on offsets for domestic disaster relief, but not for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We are busy rebuilding Iraq and building Afghanistan, yet we’re going to tell American taxpayers – whose money is being used to fund these wars and overseas misadventures – to do without,” said Slaughter. “It’s unconscionable. What kind of a message are we sending? We really ought to reassess the priorities of this Congress and put our own states and communities first.”

The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday afternoon on the underling continuing resolution, to which the Republicans have attached their disaster aid provision.

This story was posted at 2:35 p.m. and has been updated.