Senate approves $7B disaster aid plan
Typically disaster aid is added to the budget as an emergency expense, and the insistence by Republicans on so-called offsets has Democrats fuming.
A larger question is whether House GOP leaders this fall will allow the annual appropriations bills to be adjusted upward by more than $11 billion under a new approach devised in last month's budget deal which seeks to budget for disasters in advance rather than on an ad hoc basis. The new disaster funding mechanism has been embraced by Majority Leader Republican Eric Cantor, R-Va., but it's not clear whether he's supported by the rank and file — or House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who hasn't addressed the topic.
The White House requested $5.1 billion in additional disaster aid money only last Friday, which had been a source of frustration for lawmakers responsible for funding disaster accounts.
The administration requested just $1.8 billion for FEMA's disaster funding in February, well short of documented needs to respond to past disasters like hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav and the massive Tennessee floods of last spring. The tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and across Alabama this spring only made the problem worse.
The Senate measure contains:
—$5.1 billion for FEMA's disaster fund.
—$1.35 billion for the Corps of Engineers to repair flood control and other projects.
—$266 million for Agriculture Department for conservation, watershed protection, and forest restoration programs.
—$135 million for Economic Development Administration grants to communities for to rebuild infrastructure.
—$100 million for Community Development Block Grants to local governments.