The Hurricane Sandy relief bill that passed through Harry Reid's Democratically controlled Senate and now sits at the House is packed full of pork. Half of the $60 billion legislation has absolutely nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy and is not intended to aid the storm's victims.
Hurricane relief measures contained in the Senate bill include:
$8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice departments.
• $150 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to dole out to fisheries in Alaska
• $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs in DC.
• $207 million for the VA Manhattan Medical Center
• $3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center
• $1.1 million to repair national cemeteries
• $58.8 million for forest restoration on private land.
• $10.78 billion for public transportation, most of which is allocated to future construction and improvements, not disaster relief.
• $17 billion for wasteful Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), a program that has become notorious for its use as a backdoor earmark program.
• $197 million “to… protect coastal ecosystems and habitat impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”
• $41 million to fix up eight military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
• $4 million for repairs at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (http://bit.ly/VxW59P)
Where is the relief for the hurricane victims? The House did pass a much smaller $9 billion bill to replenish the National Flood Insurance program, which will help Sandy victims, but delayed voting on the rest of the package.
This decision set up Speaker John Boehner as a target from both sides of the aisle.
Republican Congressman from NY, Pete King spoke on the House floor, ripping into the Speaker. “I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds, because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans,” King said. “It was an absolute disgrace” (bit.ly/UJwq0g).
NY Senator Chuck Schumer said of Boehner's decision to delay voting on the pork bill "This failure to get relief now could be called the 'Boehner Betrayal,'" Schumer said Boehner "pulled out the rug from under us at the last minute" (http://bit.ly/109S8yV).
Republican Governor of New Jersey was no less candid in his disgust with John Boehner. "There is only one group to blame," Christie said. "The House Majority and John Boehner. Last night, the House Majority failed the basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state," he said. "It was disappointing and disgusting to watch. Shame on you, shame on Congress" (http://read.bi/ZUS2uO).
Packing the relief bill with so much pork barrel spending was a deliberate calculation on the part of the Democrats. They knew that such a touchy issue as providing relief to storm victims would have wide support and it would be politically unpopular to vote against it. So, the original price tag literally doubled as Democratic senators packed on the additional spending.
Chris Christie was right. "Shame on you, shame on you" But, his ire was misdirected. The blame falls squarely on Harry Reid and his Senate Democrats as they took advantage of the misfortune and deaths of many Americans to push through cronie pork barrel spending.