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Re: [prezveepsenator] GOP Split Over Big Plans for Storm Spending

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  • THOMAS JOHNSON
    Fiscal conservatives in Congress????? Nobody has tried putting those words in the same sentence for 5 years. ...
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 15, 2005
      Fiscal conservatives in Congress????? Nobody has tried
      putting those words in the same sentence for 5 years.

      --- Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...> wrote:


      ---------------------------------
      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/politics/16cong.html?ei=5065&en=c0ed71e0e95938c4&ex=1127448000&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print

      September 16, 2005
      G.O.P. Split Over Big Plans for Storm Spending
      By CARL HULSE

      WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - The drive to pour tens of
      billions of federal dollars into rebuilding the
      hurricane-battered Gulf Coast is widening a fissure
      among Republicans over fiscal policy, with more of
      them expressing worry about unbridled spending.

      On Thursday, even before President Bush promised that
      "federal funds will cover the great majority of the
      costs of repairing public infrastructure in the
      disaster zone," fiscal conservatives from the House
      and Senate joined budget watchdog groups in demanding
      that the administration be judicious in asking for
      taxpayer dollars.

      One fiscal conservative, Senator Tom Coburn,
      Republican of Oklahoma, said Thursday, "I don't
      believe that everything that should happen in
      Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the
      country. I believe there are certain responsibilities
      that are due the people of Louisiana."

      Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina,
      called for restoring "sanity" to the federal recovery
      effort. Congress has approved $62 billion, mostly to
      cover costs already incurred, and the price tag is
      rising. The House and Senate approved tax relief
      Thursday at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion
      on top of $3.5 billion in housing vouchers approved by
      the Senate on Wednesday.

      "We know we need to help, but throwing more and more
      money without accountability at this is not going to
      solve the problem," Mr. DeMint said.

      Their comments were in marked contrast to the sweeping
      administration approach outlined by Mr. Bush in his
      speech from New Orleans and a call by Senate
      Republican leaders for a rebuilding effort similar to
      the Marshall Plan after World War II. Congressional
      Democrats advocated their own comprehensive recovery
      program Thursday, promoting a combination of
      rebuilding programs coupled with housing, health care,
      agriculture and education initiatives. The president
      also emphasized the importance of private
      entrepreneurship to create jobs "and help break the
      cycle of poverty."

      Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader,
      said he believed that providing rapid and extensive
      help overrode the need to cut spending elsewhere. "I
      think we have to understand that we have a devastation
      that has to be taken care of," Mr. Reid said. "And I'm
      not into finding where we can cut yet."

      That mindset is troubling to other lawmakers who fear
      that in addition to a reborn Gulf Coast, something
      else will rise from the storm: record federal
      deficits.

      "We know this is a huge bill," said Senator John
      McCain, Republican of Arizona. "We don't want to lay
      it on future generations." Given the fierce political
      backlash to the stumbling relief effort in the days
      after the hurricane struck, House Republican leaders
      have been reluctant to stand in the way of any
      emergency legislation. After the speech, Speaker J.
      Dennis Hastert acknowledged that the price tag means
      that "for every dollar we spend on this, it is going
      to take a little bit longer to balance the budget." He
      said he was willing to listen to ideas to pay for the
      aid, but, "Quite frankly, we have to get this job
      done."

      Despite those comments, many Republicans are
      increasingly edgy about the White House's push for a
      potentially open-ended recovery budget, worried that
      the president - in trying to regroup politically - was
      making expensive promises they would have to keep.

      "We are not sure he knows what he is getting into,"
      said one senior House Republican official who
      requested anonymity because of the potential
      consequences of publicly criticizing the
      administration.

      The fears about the costs of the storm are building on
      widespread dissatisfaction among conservatives about
      spending in recent years by the Republican-controlled
      Congress. That unrest was already high after
      Congressional approval of a transportation measure
      that critics denounced as bloated with marginal
      home-state projects.

      That sore spot was rubbed raw earlier this week when
      Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader,
      suggested that the Republican Congress had already
      trimmed much of the fat from the federal budget,
      making it difficult to find ways to offset hurricane
      spending.

      Mr. Coburn called such a claim ludicrous and other
      Republicans took exception as well.

      "There has never been a time where there is more total
      spending and more wasteful spending in Washington than
      we have today," said Pat Toomey, a former Republican
      congressman from Pennsylvania and the head of the
      conservative Club for Growth. "There is ample
      opportunity to find the offsets we need so that this
      does not have to be a fiscal disaster as well as a
      natural disaster."

      On another front, Republicans and Democrats continued
      their dispute over how to investigate government
      failures in the storm response. The House approved a
      select committee to oversee the inquiry despite
      Democratic objections that only a special commission
      outside of Congress could do a credible job.

      The House voted 224 to 188 to establish a 20-member
      panel to work in concert with a similar Senate panel
      in studying the adequacy of local, state and federal
      preparations for the storm and why the relief effort
      was so troubled, stranding thousands in chaotic
      conditions without sufficient food, water or medical
      care.

      Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the
      Democratic leader, said the special committee was an
      effort to "whitewash" the inquiry though she later
      said she would not stand in the way if Democrats want
      to sit on the panel. In another effort to reduce
      Democratic opposition, Mr. Hastert on Thursday named
      Representative Thomas M. Davis III, a sometimes
      Republican maverick from Virginia, to lead the panel.

      As for paying for the recovery, Ms. Pelosi raised the
      possibility of 50-year bonds tied to the
      reconstruction.

      The conservative Republicans worried about the outlays
      said the president and Congressional leaders need to
      ask the public to share in the sacrifice and suggested
      savings could be easily wrung from federal agencies or
      in Congress in ways like eliminating pet projects.

      "Katrina breaks my heart," said Representative Mike
      Pence, Republican of Indiana and chairman of a caucus
      of more than 100 House Republicans who advocate
      conservative spending policy. "Congress must do
      everything the American people expect us to do to meet
      the needs of families and communities affected by
      Katrina. But we must not let Katrina break the bank
      for our children and grandchildren."


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