"Cantor: Hurricane Disaster Relief Will Have To Be Offset With Program CutsSO these people are getting the government they voted for. If the only way the repiglicans will provide more funding for FEMA let them do it by cutting funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Speed up the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and stop all deployments to Afghanistan and bring those troops home to stay as their deployments end. Cut tax subsidies for all companies that lay-off people here and outsource jobs overseas. Unfortunately that is not where the money will come from because the corporate welfare queens and the military-industrial complex have control of Congress. The funding will come from cuts in education, social safety net programs, the EPA, the Dept of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, the Dept of Labor and others. Maybe, just maybe, while communities and wallowing in despair and destruction and roads and bridges aren't repaired and rebuilt, while water remains unsafe and power supplies remain disrupted, while more people remain unemployed because their businesses are closed due to damage or lack of infrastructure, while Congress squabbles about FEMA funding, just maybe these people will think about the representatives they sent to the House and how it might not have been the smartest vote they ever cast.
By Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo - August 29, 2011,
As expected, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will try to see to it that federal disaster aid to regions damaged by Hurricane Irene be offset by concomitant cuts to other federal programs."
But the East is not the only region to suffer from natural disasters this year. There was a string of deadly tornadoes in the South this spring, floods along the Mississippi and in the Upper Midwest, and last May's devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo.
Fugate, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room Monday, said his decision has already been misinterpreted: "A lot of people thought, well, the people that have been impacted by the tornadoes and floods — we're going to take that money away from them."
But Fugate stressed that is not the case.
"The survivors that are eligible for assistance are still getting funds. Individual assistance programs were not affected by this, nor was any protective measures, or any debris clearance, or any project that had already been approved," he said.
In places like Joplin, Fugate said, the only projects that will be suspended are those still in the planning stages. Both of Missouri's senators are urging the White House to make sure FEMA funds continue to flow into their state.
A New Confrontation Looms
FEMA's role in a disaster is multilayered. It provides immediate assistance, helping victims pay for shelter and food and medical needs. Later on, it pays to rebuild schools, bridges and water treatment plants.
For instance, FEMA is still paying for rebuilding related to Hurricane Katrina, which struck six years ago this week.
"He's got to deal with the cards he's been dealt," says Kaniewski. "He has a limited amount of money, and he realizes, rightly so, that money has to be allocated for the most pressing needs. And right now, it's those individuals who have been impacted by Hurricane Irene — they need to be provided the assistance to make sure they have a roof over their heads."
All told, there have been 10 storms that cost at least a billion dollars each this year, if you include Irene's expected costs. And FEMA says its disaster relief fund is below the billion dollars it likes to keep on hand.
So the administration will be forced to go to Congress for more aid, setting up a potential fight with House Republicans. In the past, emergency aid funds have been treated as, well, emergencies, and the money spent was added to the deficit. No more, says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Speaking on Fox on Monday, Cantor said the money to pay for disaster aid will have to be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"In instances like this, yes, there is a federal role. Yes, we're going to find the money. We're just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so," Cantor said.
In fact, the House has already approved a measure to put an additional $1 billion in the disaster relief fund for this year, and some $2.65 billion for next year.
The Senate has yet to act, but the top Democrats on the Appropriations Committee vow to take up a FEMA funding measure as soon as lawmakers return to the Capitol next week. The Senate bill, however, is unlikely to contain the offsets demanded by House Republicans.
That's likely to mean yet another confrontation between the two parties and the two chambers of Congress.
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