An example of fiscal responsibility turned up yesterday in an unexpected place: the U.S. Senate. Senator Dan Coats (R–IN) offered an amendment to President Obama’s $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill that would be far less costly and much better focused on the storm’s victims.
Maybe common sense in budgeting still has a pulse.
Senator Coats noted that about two-thirds of Obama’s proposal, as packaged by the Appropriations Committee, is extraneous to the immediate needs of hurricane victims. The Senator’s $23.8 billion measure would strip out $13 billion in funding to mitigate the next potential storm, and also strikes all but $2 billion of an outrageous $17 billion Community Development Block Grant slush fund.
The amendment also eliminates funding for fisheries in Alaska, museum roof repairs in Washington, D.C., tree planting, and other non-Sandy “investments” in the Obama bill. These items can be considered in the regular budget process. That assumes, of course, that the Senate—which has not passed a budget resolution in more than three-and-a-half years—can remember how the “regular budget process” works.
The Obama bill is excessive in many ways. What is equally frustrating is how it employs the all-too-typical practice of disregarding budget discipline. The President and his Senate allies are exploiting the “disaster” and “emergency” loopholes they placed in the Budget Control Act (BCA) to slide their deficit-increasing bill through.
The timing is curious, too. Sandy struck in late October; the President’s request came on December 7, more than a month later. The “emergency” designation is supposed to be for urgently needed assistance. (Remember New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s early November pleas to the President?) With the year quickly drawing to a close, and the fiscal cliff still unresolved, rushing the Sandy relief bill now only ensures inadequate deliberation.
It is regrettable that even Senator Coats does not offset his $23.8 billion with reductions elsewhere. The federal government is still drowning in trillion-dollar deficits, and every dollar spent adds to the government’s growing debt. Nevertheless, his attempt to trim down Obama’s extravagant request points in a sensible direction—a refreshing change from the flagrant spend-as-you-go practices that have flourished in Washington for far too long.