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Disaster relief should not be political

Published: Monday, January 14, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013 23:01

 

It has been nearly three months since Hurricane Sandy hit America’s east coast, causing an estimated $62 billion in damages, killing 149 people. 

While those affected by the storm try to regain structure and hope in their lives, Congress is busy arguing over a bill that would add necessary funds to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other disaster relief programs.

It is sad that America’s hostile political climate has come to such a stalemate that even disaster relief is not free from political drama. 

Though a similar relief bill passed through the Senate late last year, House Speaker John Boehner adjourned the 112th congress before the bill could be voted on. Now the second round of the more than $50 billion legislation is
getting stark reviews from conservative lawmakers for appropriating too much and from Northeastern Republicans for taking too long to aid their storm-ridden constituents. 

The problem with enacting an appropriation bill like this one is that too often the bills are nicknamed and recognized by characteristics that are only a part of the overall bill. 

H.R. 41, or the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill, appropriates a total of $50.7 billion, not including the $9.7 billion that was already cleared through Congress last week to fund FEMA efforts, before it is presented to congress for
amendments.

Of the $50.7 billion in spending only around $20 billion will go to FEMA and the northeastern states affected by Sandy. The rest of the bill’s proposed spending includes various other disaster aversion and relief efforts that date back to even Hurricane Katrina from 2005. While the additional spending can be viewed as helpful and even necessary, the debate over funding for such endeavors
should wait.

If the short history of the 113th congress is any indicator, then it is possible that a consensus on how to spend and how much to spend on disaster relief could take weeks or even months like last week’s fiscal cliff negotiations. All the while, thousands of Americans are waiting with demolished homes and flooded neighborhoods, waiting for the bureaucratic nightmare that is democracy to act. 

There is no doubt that the nation’s fiscal situation is far from ideal. The government has accumulated an enormous deficit and it will take strong leadership and possibly luck to recover from it. There is no hope in relying on the constant bickering and misunderstanding that has resulted in very little getting done in Washington. 

America has a moral obligation to stand up for those who have been affected by disaster, but it will fail that obligation if it continues to allow partisan politics to be a hindrance.

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