Politico reports on the long-awaited vote yesterday in the GOP-controlled U.S. House, on the second relief bill for states affected by Hurricane Sandy:
The House approved nearly $50.6 billion in long-sought emergency aid to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday night, after Northeast lawmakers successfully added tens of billions to bring the package more in line with the White House’s initial request last month…
“While the House bill is not quite as good as the Senate bill, it is certainly close enough,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We will be urging the Senate to speedily pass the House bill and send it to the president’s desk.”
Near-solid Democratic support in the House was pivotal to the whole strategy, together with Christie and his close ally, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), working the phones and mining the Republican ranks for precious votes.
NBC News reports on an unsuccessful attempt by none other than arch-conservative Rep. Cory Gardner to persuade fellow Republicans to fund flood mitigation in other states–including Colorado, where the relief is needed after last year’s devastating wildfires.
Earlier Tuesday Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., defended the bipartisan effort by Colorado members to add to the emergency bill $125 million for watershed protection and flood mitigation, including about $20 million for areas in Colorado burned by last summer’s wildfires.
The watershed protection money was in the Sandy bill that the Senate passed last month. The House Rules Committee rebuffed Gardner’s effort Monday night, but he said he hoped Colorado’s two senators will make efforts to add the money when the Senate debates the emergency bill next week.
“The title of the bill is ‘The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act.’ That’s the name of the bill. It’s not the ‘Sandy Disaster Act.’ It’s not the ‘Sandy Relief Act.’ It’s a disaster relief act. New Yorkers weren’t the only ones who had their homes burned down in a devastating natural disaster. We had over 600 in Colorado alone,” Gardner said.
“If we’re going to have disaster assistance for people in this country who truly need it – because we are all in this together — then we shouldn’t just cherry-pick Northeastern United States versus Southwestern United States,” he added.
Rep. Gardner’s frustration over excluding these funds from the bill that passed the yesterday is echoed by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, in a statement from his office:
“It is extremely disappointing to see the House of Representatives move forward with a bill that does not include critical resources Colorado needs to recover and protect its water supply – resources that were included in the Senate bill that received bipartisan support,” Bennet said. “While eastern states should have the resources they need to recover from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this summer, Coloradans also endured devastating disasters – catastrophic wildfires in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades.”
“It’s frustrating when you hear people talk about how they’re fiscally responsible while they are creating a set of conditions that are inevitably going to cost more money and much more pain. If we don’t deal with these problems now, we could be facing as much as five times the cost to deal with future flooding and damage,” Bennet added.
Bottom line: the vote approved an amount of aid consistent with what affected states asked for, and what the Senate passed last year before the House’s failure to take up that bill killed it. We haven’t seen statements from other Colorado Republican representatives who voted no on the final package yet to know what their objections were–for Gardner, despite the ideological inconsistency this creates, maybe it really was the failure to include this flood assistance.
Unfortunately, that can’t explain the votes of all but a handful of Republicans against the final bill. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s vote against the first Hurricane Sandy relief bill earlier this month on “fiscal responsibility” grounds is likely to be the explanation for most Republican votes yesterday–he just has more company. Either way, Rep. Gardner’s unsuccessful push for more money as most of his party voted against more disaster relief money, like Rep. Lamborn’s hypocritical vote against the earlier bill after seeking additional FEMA assistance of his own during last year’s fire season, seem to exemplify the GOP’s muddled message coming out of this debate.
It is impossible to reckon from their actions what these men stand for at all.