Hurricane Sandy puts FEMA budget in campaign spotlight

“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions. As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA,” she said. 

Conservatives at Breitbart are pointing out that as part of the fiscal cliff looming in January, disaster spending will be cut by hundreds of millions.

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Writer Joel Pollak calls the cuts an Obama proposal.

His article quotes the Office of Management and Budget's sequestration report from September as saying “The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to respond to incidents of terrorism and other catastrophic events would be undermined.”

In reality, the sequestration cuts are coming because Republicans and Democrats in Congress voted for the August 2011 debt-ceiling deal and then failed to agree on a deficit package as part of the supercommittee process. The $109 billion sequester was triggered by that failure; Obama has said he wants to replace the cuts.

The issue now is whether the cuts will be replaced by some tax increases as well as spending cuts, with Republicans resisting tax increases.

The FEMA budget nearly caused a government shutdown crisis in the fall of 2011, when House Republicans demanded that FEMA increases, including to deal with Hurricane Irene, be offset by spending cuts. 

The August 2011 debt-ceiling deal had included a provision that allowed disaster aid to rise above the overall spending cap, in a formula tied to previous averages. In the end, a compromise prevailed where fiscal 2011 FEMA spending was delayed, and once fiscal 2012 began in October 2011, money flowed to FEMA without the need for offsets.