UPDATE (January 2 @ 4:32 PM): The House will be voting Friday on $9 billion in disaster aid for Superstorm Sandy and then will have another vote on $51 billion in aid on January 15. We will keep up with new developments as this unfolds.
As usual, liberal lawmakers are forced to argue on the plane of emotion and feelings with regard to the Sandy supplemental. Due in part to the rushed vote on the plan to avert the fiscal cliff, and also due to conservative opposition in the House to another $60.4 billion in deficit spending, the House is unlikely to vote on the supplemental spending bill before the new Congress is sworn in on Thursday, according to CQ (sub. req'd).
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:
"It is truly heartless that the House will not even allow the Sandy bill to come to the floor for a vote, and Speaker Boehner should reconsider his ill-advised decision."
Liberals want conservatives to have a little heart? Cardiac muscle is great, but gray matter is too.
Conservatives are not heartless, but neither are we irrational. We just don't believe in spending money we don't have. Heritage's Matt Mayer has explained why $60.4 billion in new deficit spending is too much.
To call this Sandy request bill a relief bill is extraordinarily disingenuous. If it were a true emergency relief bill, the Northeast would not be waiting until 2015 to receive the funds. The truth is that 64 percent of the funding, or $38.7 billion, would not be spent until Fiscal Year 2015 at the earliest.
The federal government may have a role in assisting victims of natural disasters, but it ought not to be involved when the states and localities can handle the situation. The reason that federal funds have run dry, and Congress is even considering a $60.4 billion bill, is that the federal government has become far too involved in smaller, less serious natural weather events that historically have been handled by the states.
That's not nice. It's just irresponsible.
In an astoundingly unconvincing and emotionally charged speech right after Christmas, Senator Schumer made it clear that he can't see that, though.
He said, "We beat back all of the crippling amendments and most of the amendments." In other words, they prevented any of the excessive spending from actually being cut out of the bill.
Schumer touted "ample funding for Army Corps," to the tune of about $1 billion in funding for projects on Long Island and Queens, NY, and Staten Island. The Corps does not exactly have a great track record for spending our taxpayer dollars well. While they've received hefty funds in recent years, they have not proven themselves capable of managing this money --- they have a backlog of construction and operations and maintenance at a cost of approximately $70 billion. And liberals want to give the Corps automatic authorization for any project under study in the North Atlantic Division that could "reduce flood and storm damage risks."
Schumer added, "Mitigation is in this bill. Mitigation are [sic] not new projects that come out of the blue. They'resimply building on existing projects to prevent damage from occurring should God forbid another Sandy-like storm should hit us." The funds, for example, would go to LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) to install concrete polls, rather than wooden polls. Do they really need federal taxpayer money to accomplish that goal?
It would allow "our subway system to put in protection so the waters won't flood them again." Could this not be considered in the upcoming budget in a less emotionally charged manner. After all, as Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) noted (sub. req'd), the Federal Emergency Management Agency "has plenty of money for the immediate needs through at least February. I'm sure by then we would have passed whatever is necessary to keep them going through the fiscal year."
The bill, Schumer went on, would allow New York hospitals, when they rebuild, to make sure they put those "extremely expensive machines on higher floors." Again, do we need to give hospitals millions and billions of taxpayer dollars to get them to place expensive medical machinery on the 4th floor? Do they need the federal government to tell them to do that? Why do we need to approve that money right now?
Schumer also boasted, "Bottom line this is a very strong bill. Is it everything we asked for? No. But it is a huge shot in the arm for New York and for the national economy. New York is 10 percent of the national economy, the New York metropolitan area, yes it is."
Oh really? Well all the more reason New York should have been prepared. As Matt Mayer astutely and correctly noted:
New York should have to put some serious skin in the game. Due to the nationalization of natural disasters over the past two decades, too many governors and state legislatures have either defunded their own disaster funds or failed to provide funds for events such as major hurricanes.
Those governors and legislators, including the current ones in New York, should not be rewarded for their failure to be prepared. States should prepare for large-scale events. If they do not, they should be held accountable by taxpayers in their states.
Moreover Mayer explains that disaster relief is not truly economic stimulus:
Every dollar spent to rebuild is a dollar that would have been spent on some other activity. To be sure, the new infrastructure will be better than the old infrastructure, but the funds spent to build it would have been spent on other activities that would have provided the same or a greater economic return. At best, the net impact is near zero.
In the end, Schumer applauded his colleague Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "[Kirsten] got this bill passed in record time." Well, for many liberals in Congress, rushing bills through rapidly --- often before they've been made public (fiscal cliff deal), or you know, before they've been read by the people voting on them (Obamacare) --- is nothing new. At least they're consistent on that front!
But please, liberals, we beg you to calm down, and for once, let reason rule your passions and emotions, not the other way around. The federal government is not better than the private sector at rebuilding after a disaster. Mayer adds "it is critical to engage and leverage the private sector in recovery efforts." More federal spending, while it may make liberals feel nice, is not the always the answer.