Rep. Mike Simpson defended House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to delay a vote on a $60 billion aid package for people hit by superstorm Sandy untl this new session that started today.
New York and New Jersey congressmen from both parties angrily called out Boehner and House Republicans for making residents and communities await for funds to clean up and rebuild damaged homes in freezing temperatures. Boehner agreed to schedule a vote Friday for $9 billion in flood insurance and another on Jan. 15 for the remaining $51 billion in the package.
Simpson, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, said its his understanding there is enough money to get the Atlantic states through February. And while Boehner critics like Republican Rep. Peter King are right that aid for Hurricane Katrina came much faster, it wasn’t all well-spent, Simpson said.
“I've got no problem with helping those people with true emergencies,” Simpson said. “What we found out with Katrina was we wasted a lot of money.”
Simpson is not one of the Republicans who argue that any disaster spending must be offset with cuts elsewhere. He knows Idaho gets a lot of emergency money for fighting wildfires, for instance.
But he wants the spending that is not immediately an emergency to go through the regular committee process. He said his Appropriations Interior subcommittee staff had looked at $1.5 billion in spending in the bill that was under its jurisdiction and could only justify $250 million as emergency spending.
“People throw the kitchen sink in there,” Simpson said. “There’s money in there for fisheries in Alaska. There’s money in there for the EPA to study climate change.”
That spending might be justified, but not as a true emergency, he said. He noted that President Bush funded the Iraq War with emergency funding at first which also led to waste and a ballooning of the deficit.