In a must-read editorial today, The Wall Street Journal writes, “Only Congress could do something like this. All eyes are on the fiscal-cliff negotiations to trim the $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. Running alongside but largely out of public view is a $60.4 billion emergency spending bill to provide relief to the victims of superstorm Sandy. Trouble is, the ‘Sandy’ bill is laden with billions of dollars of spending stowaways wholly unrelated to the hurricane. . . . There’s $150 million in there for Alaskan fisheries. We knew Sandy made it to the Midwest, but Alaska? Marine projects from New England to Mississippi also made the cut. Also along for the joyride is $8 million for new cars and other equipment for the Justice Department and Homeland Security, $2 million for roof repair at the Smithsonian in Washington, $4 million for the Kennedy Space Center, $3 million for oil-spill research and $348 million for the National Park Service. Nearly $17 billion is in the bill for the Community Development Fund and social service grants, two long-running initiatives to fund liberal activists. Amtrak would get $188 million, including funds for two new train tunnels in New York unrelated to Sandy. . . . And of course some $600 million is directed to the Environmental Protection Agency to support climate change adaptation. The rationale is to spread the pork far and wide across the country to assemble the 60 votes in the Senate necessary to secure the bill’s passage.”
The WSJ editors point out, “This is supposed to be an ‘emergency’ funding bill. But only about $9 billion of the $60 billion would be spent in the next nine months. The Congressional Budget Office reports that $38 billion would be spent in fiscal 2015 or beyond. Some emergency. And for all the recent talk of offsetting such commitments with reductions elsewhere, there are no spending cuts here.”
They reveal, “Our sources say Senator Schumer is rushing for immediate passage and is telling his colleagues ‘there is no Plan B.’ In other words, the only way people pummeled by Sandy will get relief is if Congress whoops through billions for pork and various non-germane wish lists.”
Not only that, according to The Hill, Schumer is “threaten[ing] Sandy bill naysayers.” “The number three Democrat in the Senate had a warning for Republicans from disaster-prone regions like the Gulf on Thursday: fully pay for Hurricane Sandy or don’t come looking for help when your turn comes. ‘New York and New Jersey, whenever other areas had disasters, billions of our tax dollars went there to help people,’ Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned, adding that opponents of a $60.4 billion Sandy spending bill could see their vote ‘boomerang on them’ in the future. ‘It’s a very slippery slope if people from other regions, particularly disaster-prone regions, go along with putting new barriers in the way,’ the senator from hard-hit New York said.”
“There’s a better way,” The Journal editors write. “Pass a stripped-down bill that would provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with funding for the continuing clean-up effort and money for flood insurance for those who lost homes and stores. That bill would provide emergency help to those who need it, at about half the $60 billion cost.”
And as Politico notes, Senate Republicans have done just that. “Senate Republicans outlined a scaled-back $23.8 billion Hurricane Sandy disaster aid package Wednesday, but it was met with a cool reception from Northeast Democrats . . . . Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) took the lead in crafting the Senate GOP alternative and said he was encouraged by discussions with his colleagues at a Republican luncheon meeting. Coats said he had weeded out anything in the president’s request that was not directly related to the hurricane. And almost $13 billion to pay for mitigation efforts to protect against future disasters would also be dropped. That represents a significant reduction in the transit funding, for example, and Coats signaled that he would also scale back an estimated $15 billion for Community Block Grants to assist in the immediate recovery. He said his goal is to assure enough resources to carry programs through March and allow time for a more complete assessment. ‘It gives us three months to collect the right documents, facts [and] so forth regarding future needs … give agencies time to sharpen their numbers,’ Coats told POLITICO.”
Unsurprisingly, Politico reports that “Schumer expressed his disapproval. ‘This proposal is not even within the ballpark of what New York and New Jersey need,’ Schumer said in a statement Wednesday night.”
Sadly, it seems that Democrats think what “New York and New Jersey need” are billions of dollars in extra spending that the country can’t afford and is threatening to hold up relief got families and communities in the Northeast.