Members of Congress are now duking it out over how to pay for the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There are divisions…not just between the two political parties…but within the Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Usually the term “fissure” is associated with earthquakes. But this time it’s linked to another type of natural disaster: hurricanes and the split between President Bush’s loyalists and fiscal conservatives.
Tom Mann is a Congressional Scholar at the Washington, DC think tank the Brookings Institution. According to Mann, “the Bush Administration has pursued what is widely thought of as big government conservatism.”
Mann says big government spending drives fiscal conservatives up a wall.
And adds that “ongoing spending on the war in Iraq and the high cost of recovering from Katrina has stiffened their resolve and we’re going to see some fights.”
And it’s not just Republicans who are concerned. Take Democratic Texas Representative Gene Green. According to Green, “we’ve had the Federal Government bleeding red ink for years now and yet we always continue to give tax cuts and today I heard, we’re going to have that.”
It leaves lawmakers wondering how to foot the bill. Like Republican Texas Congressman John Culberson who says, “I am already beyond my tolerance for deficit spending.I just cannot, will not and I will do everything I can to avoid deficit spending.are you beyond your tolerance to approve a tax increase to cover some of this. A tax increase is never help”.
Budget watchdogs say if they’re going to pay for the hurricanes they have to figure out an offset. And that bothers Gene Green.
“To say that we have to pay for them now is disingenuous because we haven’t paid for a lot of the things that they’ve done. We haven’t paid for the Iraq-Afghanistan War. We’ll pay for this just like we pay for everything else, we’ll issue more debt.”
But some lawmakers worry the next emergency spending bill could actually add to the debt. Such bills often become magnets for expensive pet projects. Congressional Scholar Tom Mann says this is a tactic to muscle through controversial, non-related items.
“The leadership is in a position to structure votes so that you don’t get to combine a revenue source with the expenditure .It’s rather are you going to let down the people of the Gulf Coast Region by not supporting this special appropriation and therefore leave them destitute?”
Lawmakers are also making sure the federal government reimburses the state for Medicare and education expenses racked up by those who fled to Texas to escape Katrina. Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is confident that will happen. But adds that “everything moves slowly in Congress and I’m trying to slap this horse on the back and make it go.and it’s about to buck me off.”
Katrina reimbursements aren’t the only things moving slowly on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers blazed through the first set of relief bills. But a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert says the speed of the next measure is as slow as “molasses”