Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FEMA Runs Out Of Cash As GOP Plays Politics With Disaster Aid

NPR reports that FEMA, short of funds, is postponing certain previous emergency projects to contend with Hurricane Irene. Can we count on the agency getting the aid it needs? No. Citizens in desperate straits will have to wait as Republicans grandstand and insist on spending cuts. Of course, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is not under consideration as a source of revenue. Once again, those needing immediate relief will be held hostage by House Republicans, spearheaded by Majority Leader Eric Cantor:

...FEMA administrator Craig Fugate says his agency will postpone work on some of the repair and restoration projects resulting from the earlier storms to pay for the immediate needs resulting from Irene.

...All told, there have been 10 storms that cost at least a billion dollars each this year, if you include Irene's expected costs. And FEMA says its disaster relief fund is below the billion dollars it likes to keep on hand.

So the administration will be forced to go to Congress for more aid, setting up a potential fight with House Republicans. In the past, emergency aid funds have been treated as, well, emergencies, and the money spent was added to the deficit. No more, says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Speaking on Fox on Monday, Cantor said the money to pay for disaster aid will have to be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.

"In instances like this, yes, there is a federal role. Yes, we're going to find the money. We're just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so," Cantor said.

...top Democrats on the Appropriations Committee vow to take up a FEMA funding measure as soon as lawmakers return to the Capitol next week. The Senate bill, however, is unlikely to contain the offsets demanded by House Republicans.

That's likely to mean yet another confrontation between the two parties and the two chambers of Congress.

Photo: Home destroyed by Hurricane Irene in Columbia, NC. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (h/t The Atlantic)

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