Don't repeat the Sandy boondoggle of spending on unrelated items
In times of crisis, a prime directive is "do not panic." Lawmakers need to heed that wisdom as Harvey's devastation of Houston continues to unfold.This is a good time to do the right thing and stop unrelated boondoggles from being piled on to the legislation to deal with recovery operations in Texas and Louisiana. And stop acting like Ted Cruz was wrong to oppose the boondoggles tied to the Sandy relief package. It is disgusting to still see New York and New Jersey politicians still whining about that. Cruz was right and they should have amended the bill to focus on those in need and not public works in Alaska on the other side of the continent.
Congress will take up disaster funding next week. Moving resources to parts of the country demolished by a freak act of God is a long-established role for government, and typically, even the stingiest fiscal conservatives are onboard with such disaster aid. Where disputes have occurred, and they're being refought these days, is over the cynical practice of using emergency relief bills to cram through non-emergency items.
That's what Congress did a few months after Hurricane Sandy whacked the Northeast. Lawmakers passed a $51 billion relief package in January 2013. While most of the money was for parts of the country damaged by the storm, appropriators stuck in money for Alaska fisheries. Also, two-thirds of the money wouldn't even go out the door until 2014 or later. That's not emergency spending. That's just spending.
It's bad governing, not to mention duplicitous, to use an emergency process to pass non-emergency legislation. It's cynical to use the cover of emergency response to fund other priorities.
Cynicism in the face of catastrophe is the norm in Washington. Rahm Emanuel, as former President Barack Obama's chief of staff, laid it out clearly when he said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you did not think you could do before."
This is how congressional reporters and lobbyists surely see Hurricane Harvey. One lobbyist, speaking to a reporter, spoke of the "the gift of Harvey" greasing the skids for other GOP priorities.