After a much-maligned delay, Congress has approved nearly $60 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief funds. The first installment, a $9.7 billion flood relief bill, has already passed through the House and Senate and was signed by President Obama.
Disaster relief has caused partisan divide, but has perhaps more noticeably resulted in disagreement between members of the Republican party. Members of the House hailing from the northeast and other disaster prone or left-leaning states have called for more support from the GOP. All of the no votes on relief bills pass thus far have come from Republicans, with GOP representatives from 22 states unanimously voting no on relief efforts.
The in-party rift began with a decision from House Republicans not to vote on a Sandy relief bill before the New Year or alongside the fiscal cliff deal, and continued as a Republican minority fought for smaller relief packages and equivalent spending cuts. A bipartisan majority passed two bills that will aid in relief efforts in the northeastern states most affected by the storm, but will not cover some of the estimated $82 billion in damages.
Should the federal government be responsible for disaster relief? Should states more prone to natural disaster pay more in taxes? What is the best way to implement relief – should it go hand in hand with spending cuts? If a Sandy-level event were to take place in California, how would you want it to be handled?
Barney Keller, Communications Director of the Club for Growth, which works to promote public policies that encourage a high growth economy
Michele Dauber, Professor of Law and Sociology at Stanford Law School, author of “The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State” (University of Chicago Press, 2012)