Of the $130 billion in disaster-relief funding approved since 1990, $110 billion came in supplemental emergency spending. But the ongoing disputes over deficit reduction and spending cuts threaten what is a routine annual exercise to replenish FEMA’s coffers. The White House is yet to request supplemental dollars for the year.
House Republicans tucked $1 billion in additional funding for this year into a spending measure that also includes $2.65 billion in disaster-relief funding for fiscal 2012. The figure exceeds the $1.8 billion that President Obama requested for the next fiscal year, a move congressional Republicans said they took to avoid having to come up with more emergency dollars later.
The Washington Post's Anqoinette Crosby speaks with Ed O'Keefe about how FEMA has gained bipartisan praise for its response to Hurricane Irene.
But in doing so, Republicans shifted money from a program that lends money to auto manufacturers to build more energy-efficient cars and cut dollars from other FEMA programs. Both ideas are unacceptable to Senate Democrats.
“Does it really make sense to pay response and reconstruction costs for past disasters by reducing our capacity to prepare for or respond to future disasters?” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) asked in a July letter critical of the cuts the House made to replenish the disaster fund. Landrieu chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds FEMA.
If Congress cannot agree on a way to refill the disaster fund for this year, it could mean pitting victims of Irene against those who suffered in previous disasters, including the deadly tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., in May. That prospect makes lawmakers nervous and could create some momentum for a resolution.
“Recovery from hurricane damage on the East Coast must not come at the expense of Missouri’s rebuilding efforts,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in a Monday statement. “If FEMA can’t fulfill its promise to our state because we have other disasters, that’s unacceptable, and we need to take a serious look at how our disaster response policies are funded and implemented.”
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