After more than two months of political grandstanding, finally the $60 billion pork-laden Sandy relief aid bill has passed through the House in a 241-180 vote (with 1 democrat and 179 republicans voting no), with the vote passing courtesy of just 49 republicans who voted with the democrats. The reminder objected in protest "against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut" Politico reports. Specifically, the House approved a $50 billion relief bill, after several hours of contentious debate in which scores of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the size of the bill and offset a portion of it with spending cuts. $9.7 billion had been already voted on January 4th for a flood insurance lending facility.The biggest winner today? Chris Christie whose anti-Boehner soapbox rant drama two weeks ago may have been just the breaking straw that forced the passage of this porkulus bill.
Republican and Democratic supporters of the bill argued throughout the day that everyone should support it, or run the risk of losing votes for future disaster bills that might help people in their districts.
"Florida, good luck with no more hurricanes," Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) shouted to any member who might oppose the bill. "California, congratulations, did you get rid of the Andreas Fault? The Mississippi's in a drought. Do you think you're not going to have a flood again?
"Who are you going to come to when you have these things? We need this, we need it now. Do the right thing, as we have always done for you."
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a similar warning to members who oppose the bill."
I hope that we can have an overwhelming bipartisan vote," she said. "I think that ideally… that would be the right thing to do.
"But as a practical matter, you just never know what mother nature may have in store for you in your region, and you would certainly want the embrace of the entire nation around you and your area, for your constituents, for your communities, for our country."
In other words, let's cut spending... but not when that spending may involve me being the benficiary. Incidentally, this is precisely why the US government will never, ever address the true cause of its insolvency: spending. Because doing so may mean being unable to rely on other, generous taxpayers when push comes to shove.
Scores of Republicans ignored these warnings and voted to either cut the bill or offset parts of it with cuts elsewhere. But there were not enough deficit hawks to overcome the many Republicans who favored the bill as it was presented, along with nearly every Democrat.
And yet another reason why the debt ceiling deal has no choice but to be enacted, with the usual theater, is the following:
The other big vote was on whether to offset the $17 billion baseline bill with a 1.63 percent cut to discretionary government programs. The sponsor of this language, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), argued that while prior disaster bills did not have offsetting spending cuts, Congress is now operating in the context of a $16 trillion debt.
"The time has come and gone in this nation where we can walk in here one day and spend nine or 17 or 60 billion dollars and not think about who's paying for it," Mulvaney said.
But Mulvaney was rebuffed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who opposed the idea of subjecting discretionary programs to an across-the-board cut. That left Mulvaney asking all members why Congress can't find cuts to fund important disaster recovery aid.
"Just tell me what you are willing to do without," said Mulvaney. "Are we willing and able to do without anything so that these people can get this money this year?"
Mulvaney's amendment failed 162-258, as Republicans split on the proposal 157-71. The vote split GOP leaders, as Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) voted for it, while Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) voted against it.
So, basically, there is nothing that the House was willing and able to do without. But yes: spending cuts.
And putting it all into context, $60 billion just happens to be the annual benefit from the Obama tax hikes on the rich. And just like that, the entire first year's budget benefit was spent in under 2 weeks.
Because if you tell them there is more money, they will gladly take it...