The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 10, 2013

Our View: Strip pork, then OK Sandy relief bill


The Free Press

— Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will take up amendments to its own Sandy relief package that on the face appears to do what the original Senate bill failed to do -- concentrate solely on providing relief.

The bill includes $17 billion in emergency appropriations and another $33.7 billion in relief for longer-term recovery efforts in the northeast.

What it does not include is what "porked up" the Senate bill causing some House Republicans to halt on advancing the bill further. This failure to approve drew much publicized vitriolic rage against the House and especially Speaker John Boehner as being callous to the people suffering in the New York and New Jersey areas.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, upon learning of the GOP delay, lambasted the U.S. House for the "palace intrigue" and Boehner in particular saying "politics was placed before serving our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch." He went on further to say "we've got people down there who use the citizens of this country like pawns on a chessboard."

We agree the delay on providing relief was somewhat callous and the lack of communication with northeast leaders was unjustified. But we also acknowledge that there were games being played by the Senate that waved a red flag toward members of the House.

One reason the GOP balked at approving the bill was it included such items as $2 million to repair roof damage at Smithsonian buildings in Washington, D.C.; $336 million for Amtrak-related expenses; $8 million to buy new cars for federal agencies; $150 million for fisheries in Mississippi and Alaska; $4 million for repairs at the Kennedy Space Center and relief for droughts and fires across the country.

These were added so some GOP senators would have an easier sell back home. This is a time-honored maneuver in Congress that, while securing votes, also took taxpayers' money where it wasn't intended to go.

This week, Christie is back-tracking saying it was unfair for him to "judge" Boehner's decision and, in fact, called upon the House to approve "a clean" relief bill, inferring that something wasn't really right with the Senate version.

This latest offering from the House -- while inexcusably late -- has the right intention of actually providing funds for which it is intended. If there could be further acknowledgment that is that way bills should be passed, we could move bills faster and escape more "palace intrigue" that Christie deplores.