In his Wednesday report on federal disaster aid in a time of vast national debt, New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse treated liberal Democrats as the epitome of Washington wisdom and moderation: “Emphasis on Federal Austerity Changes Dynamics of Disaster Relief.”
While self-described socialist Bernie Sanders was only termed an “independent,” Hulse managed to put an ideological label on “Conservative Republicans” who are pushing to actually pay for disaster relief, through off-setting budget cuts.
As Senator Bernard Sanders toured Vermont by helicopter on Tuesday to assess the damage from what he said could be his state’s worst-ever natural disaster, the idea of cutting other federal programs to aid towns pummeled by Hurricane Irene was stoking his outrage.
“To say that the only way you can come up with funding to rebuild devastated communities is to cut back on other desperately needed programs is totally absurd,” said Mr. Sanders, an independent, responding to a call by leading Republicans to balance any financial relief with spending reductions elsewhere. “Historically in this country we have understood that when communities and states experience disasters, we as a nation come together to address those.
“That is what being a nation is about,” he said in an interview.
Hulse then quoted Texas Rep. Ron Paul calling for cutting the federal role in disaster rseponse (and FEMA) in particular, before bringing on Obama’s spokesman to provide sensible wisdom to counteract the "unsettling" views of some in the G.O.P.
That view and the idea of offsetting the cost of relief is unsettling to those of both parties who see disaster aid as a chief responsibility of the federal government. They note that past efforts were financed through deficit spending by both parties -- a fact pointedly made on Tuesday by the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, when he was asked about paying for relief efforts with corresponding cuts.
Conservative Republicans have pushed in the past to pay for disaster relief through budget cuts elsewhere, most notably in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But party leaders ultimately relented under political and public pressure, and much of the aid was delivered through deficit spending. Research by Senate Democrats showed that since 1989, Congress has approved 33 emergency appropriations for disaster relief without offsetting that money with cuts in other departments or agencies.