Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The governors of New York, New jersey and Connecticut published an op-ed in the Washington Post today decrying Congress delaying Hurricane Sandy relief for ideological reasons. We need Congress’s help on Sandy relief:
As Congress works to put our nation’s fiscal house in order, its leaders and members should not leave Washington until they have fulfilled another of their critical obligations: to provide aid to the Northeast, a region facing unprecedented damage and devastation.
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Hurricane Sandy dealt our region a once-unthinkable blow. The numbers are painful: hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, thousands still left homeless or displaced, tens of billions of dollars in economic loss, the nation’s largest transit system crippled, and hundreds of miles of coastline ravaged.
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Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast in 2005, Congress approved more than $62 billion in federal aid. One month after Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, Congress approved more than $20 billion in aid for storms that wrought $35 billion in damage. This marks the seventh week since Sandy made landfall. And Congress has yet to act.
The request for $60 billion was diligently assembled based on conservative estimates of our states’ needs and is in line with supplemental appropriations approved after previous disasters for other areas.
This is not the time for partisanship or regional isolationism. The three of us have reached across the aisle and across our borders to work together during this crisis. Congress must do the same and not allow this much-needed aid to fall in to the ideological divide.
What the governors fail to mention in their op-ed is the ideological reason why Congress is delaying Hurricane Sandy relief. Steve Benen provides the explanation. Hurricane Sandy relief aid already in jeopardy in Congress:
President Obama has submitted a $60.4 billion relief package for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, which is actually below the total aid request from the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but as promised, Congress is not in a generous mood.
House lawmakers don't intend to introduce an emergency funding bill anywhere near as large as the $60 billion the Obama administration is seeking to help rebuild the Northeast after superstorm Sandy, saying the administration hasn't provided sufficient details to justify spending that amount, two senior GOP aides said Wednesday.
If the Republican-controlled House doesn't take up the measure this year, it would push debate on a large rebuilding bill into next year -- something New York and New Jersey officials have said they want to avoid.
Though Republican leaders in both chambers have been cautious, saying very little about Sandy-related relief, The Hill reports that several rank-and-file House GOP lawmakers have already explicitly said they will demand funding offsets before emergency aid is approved. In other words, unless Democrats accept $60.4 billion in spending cuts, affected areas can forget about $60.4 billion in disaster relief.
And that's a real problem.
To reiterate an item from a few weeks ago, post-disaster aid didn't use to work this way. Last year, however, congressional Republicans came up with an entirely new standard when it came to emergency relief: Congress will consider helping struggling Americans and devastated communities, but only if Democrats accept comparable spending cuts.
It came as something of a shock. The same GOP lawmakers who saw no need to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts for millionaires, or the Wall Street bailout said American communities struck by a natural disaster can get help, but only if the costs of the aid are offset elsewhere, penny for penny. It was a standard without precedent.
Steve M. reviewed the recent history: "Republicans, led by Eric Cantor, pulled this stunt in the spring of 2011, after a tornado cut through Joplin, Missouri, and then a couple of months later, after Hurricane Irene and an East Coast earthquake (which damaged Cantor's home state of Virginia). This was wildly unpopular, even with Virginia's Republican governor, but when has being unpopular ever prevented Republicans from posturing as obnoxious hard-asses?"
The affected states are home to more than 50 million people, or one out of every six Americans. More than 17.5 million Americans were directly affected by Hurricane Sandy. And radical Tea-Publicans in Congress are saying "f#&k you" out of ideological zealotry. This is un-American. This country has always come to the aid of our fellow citizens in times of crisis and natural disasters. It is who we are as Americans. We do not care "how much is it going to cost?" We only ask "how can we help?"