Hurricane Sandy relief turning into Porkfest 2012

posted at 12:11 pm on December 19, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Mary Katharine Ham wrote last week about the porkfest in the Senate bill authorizing emergency relief spending for Hurricane Sandy, but the Senate hasn’t gotten the message yet.  David Francis reports on more aspects of the larded-up bill for The Fiscal Times, while noting that this has become business as usual on Capitol Hill — especially while the normal budgeting process has been derailed:

The Sandy emergency spending package also contains provisions that had previously been rejected or had not yet been considered by Congress. This includes a measure that alters how the federal government manages areas prone to flooding, a bill that was rejected by the House earlier this year. Also included is the Disaster Recovery Act of 2012, a bill that had yet to be considered by a Senate committee.

But Ellis said the pork contained in the Sandy emergency bill were modest compared to past bills. The 2007 Iraq supplemental spending package contained $21 billion in unrelated domestic spending, including $283 for the Milk Income Loss Contract Program and $400 million for rural schools. In 2000, an $11.2 billion spending plan for disaster relief in Kosovo and Columbia included $45 million to pay for a private jet for the commandant of the Coast Guard.

According to Ellis, these pet projects are part of the horse-trading involved in the political process: in order to gain broad support, priorities eliminated during the regular budget process are included in emergency spending bills. Craig Jennings, manager of federal spending and contracting policy at OMB Watch, said this is a symptom of a broken appropriations process.

“This is how Congress tries to get in their priorities. Ideally you want this all done through regular order and the normal appropriations process,” Jennings said. “There is no regular order anymore. We’ve been jumping from a debt ceiling crisis to government shutdown crisis to whatever crisis comes next. However it’s supposed to work isn’t working.” Jennings said partisan gridlock makes returning to a normal appropriations process impossible.

But is the pork in this bill really all that modest?  In my column at TFT, I note that a generous analysis of the bill by Fox News puts the actual aid for Sandy victims and infrastructural damage at $47 billion out of over $60 billion, meaning almost a quarter of the spending isn’t emergency funding at all.  So what is it?

Various estimates abound for the amount of money being allocated to fund “mitigation” projects intended to prepare the US for future storms.  The numbers range from $10 billion to $28 billion – anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent of the entire bill.

This might be money well spent in a normal annual budget, depending on what these “mitigation” projects actually propose to do. However, this funding request is for emergency assistance for victims who have waited weeks for help.  If Congress wants to fund these “mitigation” projects, the money should be allocated in the normal budgeting process for Homeland Security.

Some of that money, reports the Heritage Foundation, comes in at $17 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. Heritage rightly describes this as a “slush fund” for states, spent free from federal accountability. In the past, Heritage reports, “the CDBG program also has funded pork projects such as the Mark Twain House and Museum, the Salvador Dali Museum, and the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation.”

Again, one can debate the wisdom and administration of the CDBG program, but it’s not a vehicle for disaster relief, and yet it’s nearly 30 percent of the entire bill – and one has to question how much will go to actual Sandy relief.

More of the “mitigation” funds can be found in a $12 billion allocation to the Department of Transportation (which includes the supplemental Amtrak subsidies), ostensibly to repair public-transit systems.  However, more than $5 billion can be reallocated to other DoT priorities, one of which could be to combat “the rise in sea levels,” according to the Heritage analysis.

Those Amtrak subsidies, Heritage further notes, come to $336 million — which is a quarter of their usual annual subsidy, and more than ten times what the White House requested in emergency aid to Amtrak.  Did the storm damage a quarter of Amtrak infrastructure?  Or is this just favored-son pork that piggybacks on the misery of Sandy’s victims?

Normal budgets shouldn’t have a 20%+ pork factor in order to pass, and that’s even more true of emergency relief spending.


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Surprise. Not.

totherightofthem on December 19, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Unexpectedly, of course…

Ace ODale on December 19, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Barack Hussein Obama and John Boehner, Porksters of the Land

p.s. apologies to the clean pigs

Schadenfreude on December 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM

IIRC, TARP didn’t pass the House on the first go-round until the 2nd go-round got larded up with pork.

Bitter Clinger on December 19, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Why even bother anymore…we are doomed…

PatriotRider on December 19, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Ot… Obama lying to the American people once again

Spewing crapola about the fiscal cliff

His plan is the most balanced approach on the table

Puhleeze

cmsinaz on December 19, 2012 at 12:19 PM

BREAKING:

Sacrificial Lamb at State Department

BobMbx on December 19, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Does this surprise anyone? We need to all be honest here, our government – regardless of who is in charge – is a huge monolithic beast. It’s growing, and these crooks can’t even agree to stop it or substantially reduce it’s growing capacity. It’s going to fail eventually because it will collapse because of its own weight. Across the board cuts on everything should be on the table.
Social Security
Medicare
“Defense”
Foreign aid
NPR
Corporate subsidize
The list goes on.

MoreLiberty on December 19, 2012 at 12:20 PM

dc as usual, it seems, doing this? Those worthless slugs add everything their little evil hearts desire to important bills and this is never going to stop! And they wonder, guess they don’t or care, why we are so far in debt? It is a joke if it wasn’t so serious!
L

letget on December 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Meanwhile, back on Staten Island, the politicians and others can’t seem to get it through their head that FEMA trailers installed at Miller Field would greatly alleviate a lot of families’ stress until they get themselves back together.

And kicking the insurance companies’ collective asses because of the ridiculous settlements they’re making is also wrong.

And the FEMA is a joke of the first order.

Mommynator on December 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM

And Sandy victims were wondering why it took so long?

Hey, it takes time to make sausage, folks.

Cody1991 on December 19, 2012 at 12:22 PM

BREAKING:

Sacrificial Lamb at State Department

BobMbx on December 19, 2012 at 12:20 PM

At least the Hildebeast is safe, at home, nursing a ‘headache’ and probably gloating.

Cody1991 on December 19, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Free Money !!!!!!!!!

FlaMurph on December 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Yay, Obama is on TV lying his azz off and using the NYT as a reputable resource.

Cindy Munford on December 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM

BobMbx on December 19, 2012 at 12:20 PM

.
OK Great….good news, Like a laser.

Now,… Who Gave the Stand Down Order while the attack was in progress?

FlaMurph on December 19, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Im not going to negotiate around the debt ceiling
-dear leader

cmsinaz on December 19, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Barack Obama is “Person of the Year” at Time.

Celebrate idiocy by hue. It’s the ultimate form of racism, to expect so little of the first not even half black president.

Schadenfreude on December 19, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Mrs. Ham: “I know a Porkfest when I see one!”

Archivarix on December 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Tapper : where have you been?
Obama : havent been on vacation
Lol

Mr thin skin….. heh go Jake

cmsinaz on December 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

I live on Long Island. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for $78 million for refuges here. Long Island USFWS has very buildings here and none of the buildings suffered major damage. Most of the damage was tree loss which I can’t believe would cost $78 mill to correct. One of the items mentioned was repairing the Fish health center. I had no idea one even existed here or what it is.

Be prepared for the sand welfare war to begin. Very wealthy home owners demanding the Army Corp of Engineers to dump billions of dollars of sand in front of their barrier island homes.

All of this is contributing to my sour mood regarding “we must rebuild” campaign.

peterargus on December 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

PatriotRider on December 19, 2012 at 12:17 PM

So true.

Archivarix on December 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Aren’t the Muslims going to be offended? Will US taxpayers have to buy more commercials to apologize.

katablog.com on December 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM

cmsinaz on December 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

I can not wait for bho/mo/kids/etc to go on vacation! Maybe we will not have to have his face on the tube daily for three weeks?
L

letget on December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Our government “leaders” need some kind of intervention. They’re like the hoarders on that TV show. They’re obsessed with spending. And no matter how many millions of Americans tell them it’s time to stop, they have this compulsive disorder that makes them try to hide it inside spending bills that Americans wouldn’t think to look. Well guess what? We’re on to all your tricks and you can’t hide your spending anymore.

scalleywag on December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Fish health center. I had no idea one even existed here or what it is.

It’s where sick fish go silly!

katablog.com on December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Letget :)

cmsinaz on December 19, 2012 at 12:43 PM

scalleywag on December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

They don’t need to hide their spending! Look at Owebama. Spends like money is dirt, gets reelected and named Man of the Year for doing so!

katablog.com on December 19, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Shouldn’t our first Muslim Pres be worried about signing a bill with that much pork in it?……

dentarthurdent on December 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM

letget on December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

NO KIDDING. I thought after that devastating election was over at least I’d be able to watch the news without seeing him in campaign mode all the time, but nooooo, he’s on TV just as much now as he was before.

scalleywag on December 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Fish health center.
I had no idea one even existed here or what it is.
It’s where sick fish go silly!

katablog.com on December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Hey – Obumblecare does supposedly provide universal coverage….

dentarthurdent on December 19, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Now,… Who Gave the Stand Down Order while the attack was in progress?

FlaMurph on December 19, 2012 at 12:28 PM

And what have we done to bring the “militants” who did it to justice? Fact of the matter is that the report is inadequate. Apparently “the State Department” and “Intelligence” were responsible. Not individuals nor the Muslim animals that actually attacked the consulate. And we still don’t know what Christopher Stevens was doing there in the first place.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

I’d be interested in knowing who cobbled together this “emergency spending package”, which includes funds that don’t even pay out until 2015. What kind of “emergency” is that? Whoever wrote this, they probably started putting it together at the first forecast to even mention Sandy.

scalleywag on December 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM

This might be money well spent in a normal annual budget, depending on what these “mitigation” projects actually propose to do. However, this funding request is for emergency assistance for victims who have waited weeks for help.

That’s what happens when you don’t have normal annual budgeting for four years and counting. Aside from holding up the relief for Sandy victims, the extraneous projects that are getting funding this way have no assurance that the funding will continue on a regular basis, which leads to additional confusion and inefficiency in our government. This is a hell of a way to run a country.

Socratease on December 19, 2012 at 1:05 PM

scalleywag on December 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM

It’s my understanding that only $9 billion will be used in the next 24 months. But you know what they say about never letting a crisis go to waste.

katablog.com on December 19, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Never let a crisis go to waste or prevent us from waste.

RadClown on December 19, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was…

Ward Cleaver on December 19, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Disgusting. The system is really, really broken.

Time to reboot.

UltimateBob on December 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM

katablog.com on December 19, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Never let a crisis stop the government from wasteful spending is what their motto is. And oh what a surprise, it was cobbled together from the president’s wish list, expanded on by the democrat hucksters.

scalleywag on December 19, 2012 at 1:18 PM

According to Ellis, these pet projects are part of the horse-trading involved in the political process: in order to gain broad support…

The a clean Sandy relief bill would have broad support,there is no need for horse trading.

agmartin on December 19, 2012 at 1:18 PM

…pork should be a jailable offense!
….why isn’t it?

KOOLAID2 on December 19, 2012 at 1:31 PM

According to Ellis, these pet projects are part of the horse-trading involved in the political process: in order to gain broad support…

The a clean Sandy relief bill would have broad support,there is no need for horse trading.

agmartin on December 19, 2012 at 1:18 PM

If the bill had been introduced by a Republican, the Dems knee-jerk reaction would have been to vehemently oppose it. So maybe they did need all that pork to get it passed.

/sarcasm, of course

UltimateBob on December 19, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Never let waste go to a crisis.

Christien on December 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM

The Moochers steal you blind.

Schadenfreude on December 19, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Who could have seen this coming?

Anyone paying attention after Katrina.

CorporatePiggy on December 19, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Saw Senator Coburn on floor of Senate yesterday explain that he is NOT ALLOWED to offer amendments!

Then he went to explain that out of the $100B sent after Katrina billions were wasted and that this Senate was passing out a bill that gained nothing from the experience of that hurricane. That they were willing to continue the failed experience of the past in 2012/13. He stood there shaking his head.

I really think that the Senate should make a rule about making those Senators sit in that hall listen to each other instead of changing the filibuster rule.

CoffeeLover on December 19, 2012 at 1:55 PM

Alaska got a big chunk too. Seriously, they did.

williampeck1958 on December 19, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Isn’t this typical of a dysfunctional government run by a dysfunctional president. The spending will never stop until the spenders are out of office. That will never happen as long as the “uninformed voters” (useful idiots) are allowed to vote.

savage24 on December 19, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Good thing Boner hasn’t given the blank check debt nolimit to dear leader yet. We could be seeing spending out the wazoo. Oh, wait…we are. I’d hang all this taxing and cutting to Harry producing a budget first.

Kissmygrits on December 19, 2012 at 9:07 PM

My esteemed Sen. Menendez just sent out an email that an uniformed person would think indicates ALL the funds will be spent here in OUR. Lying scum.

ctmom on December 20, 2012 at 6:43 AM

When first reading about the pork we have a tendency to not believe a word of it because it’s so foreign to the purpose of the funding but on further examination the shock wears off and the anger grows very rapidly and is compounded by the realization there’s not a thing we tax payers can do about the behavior of these politicians. A pile of money just sitting there makes a politician go insane like our Social Security funds did to Johnson and his administration and I just got a notice in the snail mail last week that the name Social Security is being changed with the word Federal inserted as if this was coming from the government. The rage outside the BeltWay is looked upon as trivial.

mixplix on December 20, 2012 at 6:57 AM