In one of the last votes of 2012, the Senate passed Obama’s bloated Sandy “relief” bill (H.R. 1) 62-32. The $60.4 billion price tag makes this the most expensive disaster aid bill on record. It’s full of special interest projects that have nothing to do with the emergency, as witnessed by the fact that 64% of the funds will not be spent until FY 2015. [Taxpayers for Commonsense has a good rundown of the wasteful provision.] Nonetheless, the bill passed with the support of 12 Republicans. However, due to the expiration of the 112th Congress this week, the bill expired, requiring a new bill to originate in the House.
Earlier today, the House restarted the process in the new Congress by commencing with the vital disaster funding in a separate bill (H.R. 41). They passed a $9.7 billion package that dealt with immediate disaster relief. The bill increased the borrowing authority of the National Flood Insurance Program from $20,725,000,000 to $30,425,000,000. While conservatives agree with the imperative of passing this (and only this) component of the disaster package, it is problematic that the funding was not offset. Congress designated the funding as emergency spending and therefore not subject to any discretionary or disaster relief spending caps established by the Budget Control Act. If we ever plan to get our budget under control, we must offset even this type of emergency spending. There are plenty of areas where we could find an extra $10 billion to cut.
Moreover, while we owe it to the Sandy victims to deal with the immediate problem, we must enact long-term reforms for the flood insurance program. The program already owes taxpayers $18 billion in borrowed funds from the last bailout. Congress passed a bill in 2011 that was supposed to solve the very problems that we are dealing with now. At some point, we must chart a course towards privatization of this institution. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the new chairman of the Financial Services Committee, spoke strongly about this on the House floor and has promised to bring major reform legislation to the floor this year.
Despite the fact that this was a very difficult vote due to the sensitive nature of the disaster and the demagoguery surrounding it, 67 Republicans voted no. This is not the type of vote for which I’m going to beat up on those who voted yes, but it’s interesting to see that many freshmen voted no. They are off to a solid start, and that is a good sign. Here is the list of freshmen:
A crisis should not be used as an opportunity to play on people’s emotions for the purpose of perpetuating bad public policy. If we don’t reform these programs now to include more privatization and state control where there will be more local accountability, we will continue down the same path with every future natural disaster.
Cross-posted from ConservativeVotingRecords.com