Monday, October 29, 2012

How Will Congress Weather the Storm (Literally)?

I think it’s safe to say that Americans are generally discontented with the current level of partisanship within Congress – some even say it’s the most polarized Congress they have experienced in their lifetime. But even in this political environment, you would think that everyone would have to be on the same page when it comes to the safety of Americans in the wake of a natural disaster, right? Well, think again.

When Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, the U.S. government was on the brink of a shutdown. With a lack of available funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a newly Republican-led Congress promising to drastically cut federal spending, creating a supplemental appropriations bill for disaster relief became a very contentious issue. While a deal was finally reached, it took more heated debate than one usually likes to see when it comes down to the basic safety of the American people.

We do have to keep in mind that there are a few situational differences between Hurricane Irene and what we are experiencing now. First of all, it is yet to be seen how devastating Hurricane Sandy will be, and FEMA is in much better shape now that it was in 2011 as we weren't riddled with as many tornadoes, wild fires and other natural disasters this year. Also, since it’s an election year, some Members of Congress may react differently than they would have in 2011 if the Hurricane directly impacts their district (sad, but true). And while Congress is not dealing with a government shutdown this time around, they do have to determine what to do about the $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending cuts called for in the sequestration provision of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Congress can work together to take the appropriate action in relation to the amount of damage Sandy does. And this goes without saying, but please stay safe through the storm!

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