This week, Congress debated legislation to assist those affected by the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, House Resolution 152 - the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.
Below are some of the key votes on significant amendments, complete with links to the legislative language, and a list of how I and other Members voted.
* I voted "Yes" on the "Rogers Amendment," which provides $17 billion in immediate emergency funding to communities hit by Sandy. This amendment passed by a vote of 327-91. Click amendment name for more information, or the vote count for a list of Member votes.
* I voted "Yes" on the "Mulvaney Amendment," which would have paid for approximately $20.4 billion in emergency funding by putting in place a 1.6 percent across the board cut on defense and non-defense discretionary spending in order to offset some of this disaster relief price tag. This amendment was not adopted, and failed by a vote of 162-258. Click the amendment name or the vote count for more information.
* I voted "No" on the "Frelinghuysen Amendment," which included an additional unpaid for $33.7 billion in emergency and nonemergency spending. This amendment passed by a vote of 228-192. This brought the total of all emergency appropriations to over $60 billion.
I voted "No" on the Final bill -- the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. The final Appropriations bill passed by a vote of 241-180. Click the bill name or the vote count for more information.
I could not support the final package of this legislation for the following reasons:
* With all of the amendments passed the final package totaled over $60 billion. This is simply too big and too much to appropriate all at one time and is far greater than the amount that could be spent this year. In fact, less that 10% of this funding will be spent in 2013. According to the CBO, only $3.83 billion will actually be spent this year in disaster relief.
* The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 added approximately $60 billion to the national debt. Not one dollar of it was offset from other government programs. For comparison, this amount is equal to the President's recent tax increase for the upcoming year. The new taxes that have been raised as part of the fiscal cliff bill will all go to new spending - none will go toward paying down the annual deficit.
* There are not adequate controls in place to ensure these dollars would only go to Hurricane Sandy emergency relief. The legislation included $2 billion to federal highway improvements, $25 million toward improving weather-forecasting systems and $118 million for Amtrak upgrades. While arguably valuable projects, these and other items were not "emergency" related and do not go towards immediate relief to help victims.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I recognize that additional resources may be needed for the long-term recovery from this storm. However, these funding requests should go through the traditional Appropriations process, which provide greater oversight and transparency.
I simply could not write a $60 billion check without greater spending controls, transparency, and accountability.