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Hurricane Sandy Package Should Focus on Relief, Not Pork

Jan 2, 2013 | Blog

Last month, I watched with great sadness as Hurricane Sandy hit various eastern seaboard states and destroyed towns, property and lives.  While Florida was spared the worst damage seen in the northeast, given Sandy’s sheer size and trajectory, even our state experienced some damage.

As a Floridian, I am all too familiar with the impact of storms like this and offered my prayers that the people impacted by Sandy would find strength in God’s love and the company of their loved ones in its aftermath.

From a public policy standpoint, I have always believed one of the most critical roles of any government is to help people impacted by natural disasters. Effective coordination between local, state and federal governments are vital to helping people and starting the clean-up and rebuilding process. Swift, smart action can make a huge difference in difficult times like these. 

That’s why I’ve made clear in the past that emergency assistance bills like this should be handled with a sense of urgency and should not be derailed by efforts to find spending cuts to offset them, for example. When people are suffering gravely because of natural disasters, every moment we delay is a moment of delayed relief for victims.

However, we do have a responsibility to make sure this emergency spending is ultimately going to disaster relief, and not to other pet projects. Unfortunately, the Hurricane Sandy supplemental bill goes far beyond emergency relief to impacted victims and communities, which is why I voted no on final passage.

For example, it includes spending for fishery projects in Alaska, money to fix museum roofs in Washington, D.C., money to plant trees around the country, and money for a water resources priority study, among other measures.  It calls for $818 million for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $336 million for Amtrak and $482 million for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – all amounts exponentially greater than originally requested by the White House. Despite several votes on amendments intended to strip out this excess, unrelated spending and return the bill to its original purpose of helping families and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the final bill went far beyond that.

In sum, the current spending bill goes far beyond emergency relief and all efforts to strip the bill of unrelated pork are being blocked. As a result, I cannot support it.  Instead, I support a cleaner alternative version proposed by Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) that costs less by keeping the focus on people and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.