Democrats are up in arms today over a South Carolina conservative’s demand that the $51 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package in the House be paid for with cuts elsewhere.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said after House Democrats’ caucus meeting that the package “is not all perfect” because “it doesn’t meet the $82 billion that was originally asked for by the states.”
“We must oppose the Mulvaney amendment, which is an across-the-board cut to offset the costs of disaster relief,” Lowey said. “I want to repeat this point again: In the United States of America, we respond to disasters. All Americans respond to disasters. We don’t ask for offsets.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) noted on CNN this morning that he also lives in a hurricane zone and believes it is the responsibility of the government to step in and help after disaster strikes.
My difficulty with it, it is not paid for, we’re borrowing this additional money and I think that’s wrong. I’m hoping we can figure out a way today during the amendment process to find savings elsewhere to pay for this without adding to the debt,” he said.
Mulvaney noted that the national debt was smaller at the time of disasters back, even at the time of Hurricane Katrina.
“We have disasters every single year. We don’t know where they’re going to be, but we spend disaster money every single year, something for which we could budget,” he said.
“Listen, I’m not against doing this but I think the days of just being able to say, OK, let’s borrow money from China to do this and that have come and gone. The question is not whether or not we’re going to do it. The question is whether or not it means enough to us as lawmakers to say we are going to pay for it.”
The congressman questioned the pork added to the disaster relief by the Senate, including “the money for the Alaska fisheries, Smithsonian, trees planting and job services and legal programs.”
“Back during Hugo, back during Katrina we were paying for at least our basic operating costs, we are paying for the government, the deficits were — they were surplus at sometimes but ordinarily deficits were fairly small and very manageable,” Mulvaney said.
“…And I’m not happy to be in this position. And it’s not because of what happened in Sandy, it’s because of what happened before we got to Sandy. And until that changes I think we can continue to have these conversations.”
UPDATE: Mulvaney’s amendment failed, but still got 162 votes, including several Democrats.
“I believe this bodes well for future discussions about how to deal with emergency spending. I am especially pleased with the atmosphere of the debate, as it was respectful and reasonable on all sides,” Mulvaney said. “Even opponents of my amendment recognized that this amendment was not about denying assistance to anyone in need. I hope that we will use this experience to be even better stewards of taxpayer dollars going forward.”