Battle Over Disaster Aid Brewing In Congress

A political battle between the tea party-driven House and the Democratic-controlled Senate is threatening to slow money to the government's main disaster aid account, which is so low that new rebuilding projects have been put on hold to help victims of Hurricane Irene and future disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has less than $800 million in its disaster coffers. A debate over whether to cut spending elsewhere in the federal budget to pay for tornado and hurricane aid seems likely to delay legislation to provide the billions of dollars needed to replenish FEMA's disaster aid in the upcoming budget year.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House will require offsetting spending cuts. Irene caused significant damage in Virginia, and Cantor's own district sustained damage from last week's earthquake.

Key Senate Democrats said they'll oppose the idea of offsetting cuts when a bill funding FEMA gets under way in the Senate.

Of $130 billion provided in FEMA disaster funds over the past two decades, some $110 billion has been provided as emergency funding in addition to the annual budget.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said Tuesday the number and cost of disasters have grown dramatically over the past few years and that it's unrealistic to require offsetting spending cuts. Durbin presided over a recent hearing on disaster costs.

"If (Cantor) believes that we can nip and tuck at the rest of the federal budget and somehow take care of disasters, he's totally out of touch with reality," Durbin said.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana — her state is still rebuilding six years after Hurricane Katrina — said that she will take advantage of a little-noticed provision in the recently passed debt limit and budget deal that permits Congress to pass several billion dollars in additional FEMA disaster aid without budget cuts elsewhere. The provision in the new law would allow at least $6 billion in disaster aid to be added to the budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Landrieu chairs the Appropriations homeland security panel responsible for FEMA's budget, and she's pushing back hard against a GOP demand that boosts in disaster relief be "paid for" with cuts elsewhere in the budget.

The House FEMA funding measure, passed in early June, provides $1 billion in immediate disaster funding paid for by cuts to a loan program backed by the Obama administration to encourage the production of fuel-efficient vehicles and taps into Obama priorities like first responder grants to add $850 million to the administration's $1.8 billion disaster aid request for 2012.

"We should address emergency aid in the way we traditionally have in the past — without political strings attached," Landrieu said. Her version of the legislation will provide a significant increase in disaster aid funding without offsetting spending cuts as permitted under the just-passed budget deal, she said.

Landrieu isn't getting a lot of help from the White House. Its February request for disaster funding next year is insufficient to fund pending demands from past disasters like hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav and the massive Tennessee floods of last spring — and it threatens to slow rebuilding efforts in Joplin, Mo., and the Alabama towns devastated by tornadoes last spring.

The shortfalls in FEMA's disaster aid account have been obvious to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for months — and privately acknowledged to them by FEMA — but the White House has opted against asking for more money, riling many lawmakers.

"Despite the fact that the need ... is well known," Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and David Price, D-N.C., wrote the administration last month, "it unfortunately appears that no action is being taken by the administration." The lawmakers chair the House panel responsible for FEMA's budget.

FEMA now admits the disaster aid shortfall could approach $5 billion for the upcoming budget year, and that's before accounting for Irene.

As a result, funds to help states and local governments rebuild from this year's tornadoes as well as past disasters have been frozen. Instead, FEMA is only paying for the "immediate needs" of disaster-stricken communities, which include debris removal, food, water and emergency shelter.

"Going into September being the peak part of hurricane season, and with Irene, we didn't want to get to the point where we would not have the funds to continue to support the previous impacted survivors as well as respond to the next disaster," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told reporters at the White House on Monday.

Earlier this year, the administration requested $1.8 billion for FEMA's disaster relief fund, despite pent-up demands for much more. Appropriations for last year totaled four times that amount.

FEMA estimates that the request still left the disaster fund short by $2 billion to $4.8 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. Those are figures the agency provided to Congress last spring — before Irene or the tornadoes that destroyed huge swaths of Joplin or beat up the South.

It's hardly the first time that longer-term rebuilding projects like schools and sewer systems have been frozen out to make sure there's money to provide disaster victims with immediate help with food, water and shelter. But it's frustrating to communities like Nashville, Tenn., which is rebuilding from last year's historic floods.

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  • by quote Location: enc on Sep 2, 2011 at 08:23 AM
    "The fact that he was relatively new to politics has proved to make this too difficult a job for him". This quote is from Steve Duprey-National Committeeman for the RNC. He is describing Jack Kimball-the ousted head of the NH Republican Party and TP candidate. Kimball resigned immediately before being fired and replaced by Wayne McDonald. Why didn't the RNC say that about the TP candidates that are now sitting in Congress?
  • by Interesting Location: enc on Sep 2, 2011 at 07:45 AM
    Man, this will really get interesting if La. or Texas get flooded. Heaven forbid that they need help from the mean ole Fed. government.
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:32 AM in reply to Interesting
      Yeah, I am still sitting on my porch awaiting the federal government to come clean up my yard, feed me and give me some Obamadollars. I guess if they don't show up...I will have to clean up my own yard, feed myself and get back to work next week.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 3, 2011 at 02:51 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
        Grow up. People lost homes!!! Not so easy to feed yourself and get back to work for some people.
      • reply
        by To OSOC on Sep 4, 2011 at 10:15 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
        Typical example of a Republican response. You really don't care!
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil co on Sep 4, 2011 at 03:36 PM in reply to To OSOC
          Nope, i am a bluedog democrats, you however sound like a libterdial liberal.
    • reply
      by Common Sense on Sep 6, 2011 at 09:29 AM in reply to Interesting
      Yep, the hypocrite secessionist Rick Perry is already begging for a federal handout for the wildfires.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 06:49 AM
    A political battle between the tea party and the Dems. Of course. Do you really expect anything else? People are suffering so lets play long games with their lives. Lets not let the mega rick suffer by raising their taxes a little. I really with Irene had dumped on the likes of Cantor's home.
    • reply
      by Obam Snake Oil Co on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM in reply to
      You mean its a game to uphold what congress took an oath to uphold? You mean actually do what people voted them to do? And don't worry, as soon as Warren Buffet catches up with his taxes from 2002, he is going to send money to the IRS. Funny, a democratic supporter that doesn't pay his taxes and is will to give more...he is behind by 9 years....yeah, keep believing that libterd line.
      • reply
        by To OSOC on Sep 4, 2011 at 10:17 AM in reply to Obam Snake Oil Co
        You have had more to say about one of Buffet's companies owing taxes than Murdoch's international hacking schemes. Same ole double standard!
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil co on Sep 4, 2011 at 03:39 PM in reply to To OSOC
          Why, does the truth hurt? I don't care about the guys that got in trouble in Murdochs company. I care about people that shoot their mouth off about wanting to pay more taxes yet has not paid his since 2002. "Your" poster child idiot. He makes all of you look like hypocrits.
  • by George on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:25 PM
    Capitol Hill contains Republicans that are out-of-tou­ch, not only with their constituen­cy, but also to the realities of what happens by their cavalier approach to governing!­!Have each of them spend time in a FEMA trailer, like the thousands of people after Katrina, or live through a terrible recession without a job as millions of American have and continue to endure, or pay Read More... THOUSANDS in medicines. If they aren't on Capitol Hill to help this country (instead of themselves­), send them home because their value system is miles away from most anyone else's view!!
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Sep 1, 2011 at 05:14 AM in reply to George
      Wrong, but nice try. The ones to be sent home in 2012 will be democrats in the senate and the president. Either more of the same or real change with adding jobs by the private sector, not the government. Besides, we have too many tadpole counters as it is.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 06:42 AM in reply to George
      tea party replublicans have never been in-touch in the first place.
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil co on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:34 PM in reply to
        Sorry, democrats prove they are out of touch whenever congress is in secession.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 08:41 PM in reply to
        It's fitting that they choose to name their political movement after something children do, have tea-parties. I understand it now, since they all have the mentality of children and often act the same way a child does it makes sense.
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil Co on Sep 2, 2011 at 05:35 AM in reply to
          You mean like lowering taxes, control spending, creating jobs, less government and regulation? Upholding the constitution and the rights given us? Yeah...that does sound childish.
  • by Waldo on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:05 PM
    Republicans are banking on people suffering, and they intend to blame Obama and the Government as the cause of that suffering. It's all part of the GOP plan to make sure Obama and America FAILS so that they can "take their country back." Republicans have every reason to make people suffer more, the more the better, since they are going to blame the black Democratic President anyway. Republican policies make people suffer so the rich can feast anyway. When they are in power, Republicans ignore that suffering so they can keep feeding corporate welfare to the crooks who bribe them, when they are out of power they blame all of the suffering they created while in power on their successors.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:36 PM in reply to Waldo
      Cantor voted against it in 2004 because he spent 8 years being a rubber stamp for the Bush Administra­tion. Today he has one purpose, which is to reject all of the Democrats ideas, even if it means that Americans suffer unnecessar­ily and his actions, combined with those of all Republican­s, drives our economy into another recession.
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Sep 1, 2011 at 05:17 AM in reply to Waldo
      I don't think it is the black race card, I think it is because he is the worst president in the history of this nation. There is a big difference. Also, Obama doesn't tell the truth either. You didn't vote for this idiot did you?
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 08:46 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
        Please OSOC go take a history class that will actually inform you of real historical events, then come back in comment on the worst Presidents we've had. If you're putting Obama behind the likes of Nixon, Regan, Johnson, Buchanan, Pierce, and Bush Jr then you shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion on the matter.
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil Co on Sep 4, 2011 at 03:44 PM in reply to
          Sorry, there is no question about it. Jimmy Carter had the worst approval ratings at this point toward an election. Obama slid under that pile months ago. Behold, the worst president in the history of America. Of course if you were a good citizen and read his book you would have known that would happen, however, obviously, you took the libterdial wisdom of the left and ran with it. Personally, as a democrat...I would not brag about voting for the worst president in history...and don't let the kids know either. You don't want them going to school with their heads hung down in shame...
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:01 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
        Obama isn't the worst President in the history of the country. If you honestly believe that you're simply brain-washed, and you honestly need therapy. One can not have such a belief based on rational thought, you have no sense of reality if you honestly believe that, not to mention a sense of U.S. history, or hell even modern history. Please stop watching Fox news and making people like you even dumber.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Aug 31, 2011 at 01:50 PM
    I see Common Sense has left his cave really shows how out of touch you are with reality.
    • reply
      by Mad as Hello on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:18 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
      Eric Cantor voted against Bill To Offset Disaster Relief In 2004. Ummm I wonder why the change now?? Curious as to who the Virginia Democratic Party has to run against cantor in 2012. Would like to start donating early and often. And I don't even live in VA.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:27 PM in reply to Mad as Hello
        I hope Cantor's district remembers his bet against America and his " disaster relief" comments next year when its time to vote.
    • reply
      by George on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:28 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
      Oh, I see, when the debt is ONLY US $8 TRILLION dollars, it's OK to spend money WE DON'T HAVE, but when the debt rises to US $14 TRILLION [mainly due to 2 unfunded wars, an unfunded prescripti­on drug law, a MASSIVE recession reducing revenues, and stimulus/b­ailouts designed to ease the recession]­, then it's ABSOLUTELY WRONG to spend money WE DON'T HAVE on disaster relief ! !What a nice guy you have turned out to be, Cantor ! Ha, ha !
  • by Common Sense Location: E NC on Aug 31, 2011 at 07:53 AM
    I see the Obama haters are back in droves. They must have finally restored power to all the trailer parks.
    • reply
      by you have no common sense on Aug 31, 2011 at 09:44 AM in reply to Common Sense
      you have the wrong name for your posting, you don't have any common sense. I don't hate the man, I don't like the president and want to voice my opioion, as do others on here.
    • reply
      by LOL on Aug 31, 2011 at 09:52 AM in reply to Common Sense
      Showing your lack of common sense again. You have that reversed, it is the Obama lovers that stay in the trailer parks, that is why they want to keep all those entitlements that the wealthy work hard to provide. By the way, what makes someone who lives in a trailer park a bad person anyway? Some hate and bias on the democrats side? No surprise there!!
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 09:57 PM in reply to LOL
        Yeah, they work so hard...Get rich...make decisions that destroy the economy...collect millions in bonuses. A day in the life of a rich person. Also I love how people like you think poor people (blacks in your mind) are the ones who abuse entitlements, yet you all don't ever seem to complain when the rich just cry and whine and moan when the government threatens to raise their taxes. As if the rich are entitled to only pay what they believe is fair. Talk about entitlement. I've never seen a group worse than the rich when it comes to a belief in what they are entitled too. They seem to believe they are entitled to another yacht, or another mansion, or a bailout of their business, or another ferrari, or another Amosu suit, etc, but God himself forbid a person believes they should be able to have a moderate standard of living in what's supposed to be the 'greatest' country on Earth. As if a hot meal, a place to sleep and some moderate form of entertainment is breaking the necks of the wealthy.
    • reply
      by New to site on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:41 PM in reply to Common Sense
      Cantor is waaaaaaay overdue for a big fall! Let's all help wake up his constituen­ts so they realize he doesn't remotely have their best interests at heart! It's going to take work and money, but he can be defeated and sent back under that rock that so many Republican­s slither out from!!
  • by jb Location: onslow on Aug 31, 2011 at 07:05 AM
    do y'll have any clue how big our goverment has grown since obama has brought on change? our jobs(private sections) went up 1% while goverment job have gone up 15%,when will we get our heads out of our butts and take a stand against mega goverment voted in by both parties?? the new regine maxistism
    • reply
      by George on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:32 PM in reply to jb
      Lets see: Bush inherited a small but growing foreign terrorist threat, and turned it into 9/11 and the Dept of Homeland Security, 2 wars and America losing some credibility in the world to China.....­.. Bush inherited a balanced budget with the National Debt scheduled to paid off in 12 years or so, and he turned it too deficits for at least the next 20 years, doubling of the National Debt, and a catastrophic economic collapse, that his answer for it was TARP......­.. Bush demoted FEMA from Cabinet level and then merged it into the Dept of Homeland Security, and then Katrina happened and to this day we still don't have an offical death toll. And you want another Republican President?
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 09:50 PM in reply to George
        Don't forget about the Patriot Act, which may very well be the largest expansion of government personal and policy that we'll see in our lives.
    • reply
      by To jb on Sep 1, 2011 at 04:25 PM in reply to jb
      What is marxism? Obviously, you don't know. It is the union of government and business! That's right, every time the GOP backs business instead of the people, they are following a Marxist idea!
  • by the cheerleaders are back on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:32 AM
    Wow the cheerleaders are both here and didn't get washed away. pity. umm guys, read the article, your god obama is the one who dropped the ball, and hasn't done his job. Even the biggest of fools knows that things like hurricanes and tornados hit the USA, and should know to allow for it. He didn't. Please don't try and shift blame to the Republicians for the great god obamas shorysightedness.
    • reply
      by Voter on Aug 31, 2011 at 07:51 AM in reply to the cheerleaders are back
      That kind of arrogant, condescending tone from someone who refuses to acknowledge the role of the GOP in running up 75% of our current debt is disgusting. I'll NEVER vote for another snot-nosed Republican.
      • reply
        by the cheerleaders have a friend. on Aug 31, 2011 at 09:42 AM in reply to Voter
        that's amazing, 75%? and of course you have proof of that? Please don't vote period, it's the best thing you can be to help elect republicians back in.
        • reply
          by Voter on Sep 1, 2011 at 01:01 PM in reply to the cheerleaders have a friend.
          The "proof" is in the official records of what spending was enacted and when. 75% of our current debt is due to legislation enacted during the first six years of the Bush Administration, it's in the Congressional Record. Not everything you don't want to hear is "liberal spin," sometimes the facts are against you.
    • reply
      by Jackie B on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:04 PM in reply to the cheerleaders are back
      REALITY CHECK: GOP to shutdown Gov during a natural disaster so they can call this "Obama's Katrina". Because denying Americans aid during a natural disaster amounts to a government shut down. If sabotaging America in every way they can during Obama's Presidency is wrong, Republicans don't want to be right.
      • reply
        by Kim. on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:40 PM in reply to Jackie B
        I hate to say this out loud, but I don't believe their opposition is JUST because our President is a democrat. I will resist spelling it out.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Sep 1, 2011 at 09:47 PM in reply to Kim.
          No, they hate him because he's black as well. The whole birther movement is enough evidence to state this as a simple fact. They never cried for any other Presidents birth certificate in recent memory, or the birth certificate of any politician that I'm aware of.
    • reply
      by Oh my gosh on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:39 PM in reply to the cheerleaders are back
      The right wing so dislikes a Democrat in the White House, they actually now vote against their own formerly held positions and show a monumental callousnes­s to the American people. For what? Just to oppose everything President Obama asks for. How shallow can the right wing become? How many Americans are they willing to sacrifice to regain power?
    • reply
      by to cab on Sep 1, 2011 at 04:30 PM in reply to the cheerleaders are back
      It wasn't Obama who "didn't allow for it". It was Bush to down-graded FEMA. Does the word "infrastructure" mean anything to you? Well, look it up-it includes refurbishing cables, bridges, dams, etc-those things that woudl protect us from disasters. Oh, and BTW, if the GOP has it's way-the funding for the weather satellites will be "cut". Better get ready NOT to know when a hurricane is coming. You need to check your facts or choose another issue.
  • by A.T. Location: Greenville on Aug 31, 2011 at 05:55 AM
    Why are Democrats accusing Republicans of wrongdoing? On June 9, 2009 President Obama said: “We must go further, and one important step we can and must take is restoring the so-called “pay as you go” rule, or PAYGO. This is a rule I championed in the Senate and called for time and again on the campaign trail. The "pay as you go" rule is very simple. Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere. And this principle guides responsible families managing a budget. And it is no coincidence that this rule was in place when we moved from record deficits to record surpluses in the 1990s - and that when this rule was abandoned, we returned to record deficits.”
    • reply
      by The Answer Is on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:20 AM in reply to A.T.
      The democrats blame the republicans because they don't know how to do anything else. Everything Obama and his administration has destroyed (in other words, everything they have touched), the democrats blame on any republican they can find. It is actually very sad that this is what they have to resort to, can't wait to see how badly this administration losses in 2012, I will be cheering!!!
      • reply
        by Kevin on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:21 PM in reply to The Answer Is
        Eric Cantor is engaging in the most disturbing­, heartless, cruel, politicall­y tone deaf rhetoric and partisan attacks imaginable­. To deny federal aid to American citizens impacted by what is promised to be a devastatin­g natural disaster is unconscion­able. Cantor needs to resign immediatel­y.. Although perhaps he would be having a different mindset if this hurricane had hit, say, deep red South Carolina, a top GOP primary state and a Tea Party haven.
    • reply
      by I Fought the Law on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:27 AM in reply to A.T.
      Whoever will step forward as a candidate for the 2012 presidency will get my vote....this excludes Obama, he's had his chance and run the boat aground. And to Barflow and Lavern it's doesn't matter what party they're with. Actually it would be better in my mind if they had no party affiliation but that's just too much for most blind sheep like you two to comprehend.
      • reply
        by I Fought the Law on Aug 31, 2011 at 08:10 AM in reply to I Fought the Law
        Meant to say "whoever will step forward with that idea"
    • reply
      by To A. T. on Sep 1, 2011 at 04:32 PM in reply to A.T.
      Remember a little thing called the Bush tax cuts? They were supposed to lapse! When you cut your income-you cause deficits!
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