Despite all the handwringing, it appears that President Barack Obama will get what he wanted in his excessive $60.4 billion request related to Hurricane Sandy.
Shortly after his request was sent to Congress, the Senate approved President Obama’s package largely intact. Last week, the House passed $9.7 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Today, the House will debate and vote on the remaining funds contained in two separate bills.
The first bill, sponsored by Representative Harold Rogers (R–KY), provides $17 million for Hurricane Sandy relief. The second bill (really an amendment to the Rogers bill) provides another $33.677 billion for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Together, the two bills would total $50.677 billion. With the $9.7 billion appropriated for the NFIP, the total funding approved by the Congress would hit $60.377 billion.
Later today, the House will consider 12 amendments to the aid package. More than 90 amendments were submitted to the Rules Committee. Many, championed by conservatives, were targeted cuts and offsets as well as attempts to strip out superfluous spending. One, sponsored by Representative Mick Mulvaney (R–SC), identified specific offsets to the Rogers bill but was not allowed to come to the floor. Instead, the Rules Committee allowed his amendment that would require an offset via across-the-board cuts of 1.63 percent to all discretionary appropriations in 2013.
This amendment—the only one allowed on the Rogers package—represents the strongest pushback House conservatives were permitted to launch against the tide of status quo spending. Yet while attempts at offsets should be applauded, these across-the-board cuts would strip around $9 billion out of the defense budget this year in addition to the $500 billion that would be potentially cut under sequestration, threatening to further enfeeble U.S. national security. The remaining 11 amendments, if passed, would reduce the $60.377 billion package to $60.2042 billion—not much in the grand scheme of things.
In the 39 days since President Obama sent his $60.4 billion request to the Congress, the only trace of victory that conservatives can point to is an offset covering just over 25 percent of the additional spending. As we noted, there is far more unnecessary spending in this package than is required to do right by the victims impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This weak showing comes just two weeks after conservatives in the House largely caved on the fiscal cliff deal by giving way on higher taxes and greater spending.
One can only hope that the collapse in opposing the pork package for Hurricane Sandy is a strategic decision by conservatives in the House to save all of their political capital for the upcoming fight over the increase in the debt ceiling.