The U.S. House approved a Disaster Relief Appropriations Act primarily aimed at Hurricane Sandy victims tonight, but Iowans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the majority of House Republicans who voted against the bill.
UPDATE: Added King’s comment below.
The U.S. Senate approved about $60 billion in Sandy aid last month, but House leaders didn’t bring that bill up for a vote before the old Congress left town. On January 4, the new House members approved the first stage of Sandy relief, authorizing about $9.7 billion in new borrowing. All four House members from Iowa voted for that bill.
Today House leaders brought up a bill allocating about $17 billion in relief funding, rather than the $50 billion senators approved last month. Several contentious votes on amendments followed, according to Pete Kasperowicz’s report for The Hill. Representative Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican, offered an amendment to offset the $17 billion “with a 1.63 percent cut to discretionary government programs.” Congress has never previously made disaster relief contingent on an offset, but Mulvaney argued that the U.S. can no longer afford new spending for this purpose. Most House Republicans supported his effort, but the amendment failed with 162 votes in favor and 258 against. Latham and King supported the Mulvaney amendment, as did Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. The 71 Republicans who voted no included not only members from New York, New Jersey, and other states that stood to receive funding, but also Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers.
Almost all the House Democrats voted against Mulvaney’s amendment, including Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02).
New Jersey Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen offered the most important amendment considered today, adding $33.7 billion to the bill. Kasperowicz reports,
The House narrowly approved it in a 228-192 vote that saw 190 Republicans vote against it.
Many Republicans would likely have supported other amendments to cut back portions of the Frelinghuysen language that they said had little to do with funding the emergency response to Sandy. But the House Rules Committee did not make any of them in order.
“According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than 90 percent of this money won’t even be spent this year,” Rep. Tom McClintock said. “That’s not emergency relief.”
Supporters dismissed those arguments and said the Frelinghuysen language gets close to what governors of northeast states requested to Congress.
“It’s time to lend that helping hand,” Frelinghuysen said in support of his language. Among other things, his amendment added $19.8 billion to help with the repair of roads and bridges, $6.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security’s disaster relief fund, and $4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Braley and Loebsack voted for the Frelinghuysen amendment, as did almost all the House Democrats (roll call).
Latham and King were among the 190 Republicans who voted no, which seems short-sighted given how many Iowans have benefited from federal disaster relief for Mississippi and Missouri River flooding lately. Keep in mind that Iowa officials may request substantial assistance next year if the drought continues. One New Jersey Republican was annoyed by his colleagues’ stance:
“Florida, good luck with no more hurricanes,” Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) shouted to any member who might oppose the bill. “California, congratulations, did you get rid of the Andreas Fault? The Mississippi’s in a drought. Do you think you’re not going to have a flood again?
“Who are you going to come to when you have these things?
On final passage, the House approved the disaster relief bill by 241 votes to 180 (roll call). Again, Latham and King voted no, as did 179 House Republicans. Almost all the House Democrats supported the bill, including Braley and Loebsack.
Braley’s office sent out this statement tonight:
“While I support continued efforts to cut spending and rein in the deficit, I know from personal experience that disaster relief must be a priority. Iowans have seen the effects of major disasters, and that’s why we understand the need to help out those in need following these types of tragedies. As Iowans, we stand with the rest of the country when they are struck by disaster, and need our help. That’s why I voted for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act today.”
I will update this post if I see public comments from the other Iowans in Congress.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: To my knowledge, Latham has not commented on this vote, but King’s office released this statement on January 16 (emphasis in original). It’s worth noting that King voted against the Budget Control Act containing the spending caps he praises here.
King: We Must Take Fiscal Responsibility
Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King released the following statement after voting against final passage of H.R. 152, the Sandy Relief Appropriations Act. King voted for the Mulvaney amendment because of the included offsets, but ultimately voted against the final bill.
“During the 2011 debt ceiling debate, House Republicans were able to force spending caps as part of a first step towards fiscal sanity,” said King. “Today, the House threw aside those spending caps, along with all sense of fiscal responsibility. Furthermore, a number of good, common sense, fiscally conservative amendments were prevented from even receiving a vote, thus preventing the House from being allowed to work its will on this important legislation.
I support getting funding out to communities in need as the result of Hurricane Sandy. Just two weeks ago I supported immediately-necessary supplemental funding to ensure that policy holders in the National Flood Insurance Plan would continue to receive legitimate insurance payments for their damaged property. However, the legislation considered today did not meet the standard for responsible disaster relief. Long-term spending should instead be addressed when Congress picks up the appropriations process again in the coming weeks. It is unconscionable to use this tragic storm as an excuse to throw aside our budget restraints, pile on spending measures unrelated to disaster relief, the majority of which will not even be spent out for years, and continue to pile debt on our children.”