Within a few hours, the House is expected to finally address aid for Sandy victims, after GOP leadership broke a promise to deal with it on Wednesday. But, true to form, the House is doing as little as possible. And, true to form, because of ongoing inaction, the government will end up losing more money on the deal than it should have.
The House is poised to vote Friday on a $9.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package after delays over fiscal cliff bickering and a warning from federal officials that funds are running out. …
Lawmakers are expected to pass the first portion Friday and weigh in on the remaining $51 billion in broader aid on January 15.
When the House first began poring over the president's aid proposal, Republicans sniffily insisted that it was too large, that they could only in good conscience allow about half of the $60 billion Obama wanted. You know, because fiscal watchdogs and screw the liberal East Coast and so on. Now, the brand-new 113th Congress will vote on only a fraction of that amount, $9 billion or so to pay flood insurance claims.
The reason that the House is even doing this little is that FEMA is about to go broke. From Reuters:
FEMA has told Congress that unless its borrowing ceiling was raised, "funds available to pay claims will be exhausted sometime around the week of January 7, 2013," the agency said in a one-sentence statement.
The FEMA program is essentially the only U.S. flood insurer for residences. It has a $20.8 billion ceiling for borrowing authority.
FEMA estimated Sandy-related flood losses of $6 billion to $12 billion in November, far beyond its cash and $3 billion in untapped borrowing authority.
Today's vote, then, is an emergency step to ensure that FEMA has the money to pay existing claims. As I said: as little as can possibly be done.