Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast at the end of October. A bill to send relief to those in the storm’s path still hasn’t passed Congress. The relief bill got loaded up with porkbarrel spending in the Senate, and then stalled. The Republicans really could have done a better job of naming and shaming the senators who larded up the Sandy relief bill. They released this list back in mid-December, but otherwise, the bill just sort of hung out there until Speaker Boehner decided to table it until the next congress gets sworn in. Even though that happens tomorrow, and a better relief bill may move quickly thereafter, Rep. Pete King and NJ Gov. Chris Christie are throwing a fit today — not at the Democrats, though, who larded up the bill. They’re mad at the Republicans for trying to be responsible with taxpayer money. Here’s some of the spending that King and Christie are defending.
•$2 million to repair damage to the roofs of museums in Washington, D.C., while many in Hurricane Sandy’s path still have no roof over their own heads.
•$150 million for fisheries as far away from the storm’s path as Alaska.
•$125 million for the Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Watershed Protection program, which helps restore watersheds damaged by wildfires and drought.
•$20 million for a nationwide Water Resources Priorities Study.
•$15 million for NASA facilities, though NASA itself has called its damage from the hurricane ‘minimal.’
•$50 million in subsidies for tree planting on private properties.
•$336 million for taxpayer-supported AMTRAK without any detailed plan for how the money will be spent.
•$5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers – more than the Corps’ annual budget – with no statement of priorities about how to spend the money.
•$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies, without identifying a single way to pay for it.
“All told, 64 percent of the $60.4 billion in ‘emergency’ spending in this legislation will not be spent for nearly two years.”
That’s according to Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn, who released the list on December 17. To put that last number in some perspective, it’s larger than the total spending cuts that ended up in the fiscal cliff deal that just passed the House last night.
This relief bill is among the million or so things that make covering Washington politics maddening and tedious to cover. Politicians always do this. They load up necessary legislation with their pet projects. Others object. Knives are drawn, denunciations pour fourth, but curiously, the Democrats never get divided by their own antics. It’s always Republicans who draw themselves up into circular firing squads and start pulling triggers. Isn’t the pork in the Sandy bill ultimately Harry Reid’s fault? It’s a product of his Senate. Why aren’t King and Christie focusing their fire on Reid rather than on Boehner?
Right, because Republicans remain the stupid party, and many within the party are not really conservative at all.