Washington, D.C. – Last night, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) appeared before the House Rules Committee and presented an amendment to H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, that would fund approximately $21 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief costs.
Brooks’ amendment diverts funds from foreign aid to natural disaster aid for American victims on American soil. Rep. Brooks observed that, “To me, it’s an easy choice between helping Americans who need aid, and helping foreigners who desire aid. These are American tax dollars being spent, and I would submit that it’s best to spend those American tax dollars helping Americans that are in need.”
The House Rules Committee rejected Brooks’ amendment and 80 other proposed amendments, thereby denying the full House a vote on numerous financially responsible amendments that pay for Hurricane Sandy relief costs. The Rules Committee approved for a House floor vote only one “pay for” amendment that would cut, among other things, national defense byanother $9 billion (over and above the $100 billion in annual defense cuts caused by 2011’s Budget Control Act and sequestration).
Excerpts from Rep. Brooks’ remarks:
“[The Amendment provides] a source for funding for the monies that would be spent for disaster relief caused by Hurricane Sandy. What it does is cut into foreign aid with the exception of Israel, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, and shift those monies that are being spent on foreign aid to instead be spent on American aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“The reason that I am submitting a pay-for [amendment] is quite simply because of the precarious condition that the United States government sees itself; financially we’re on a path to nowhere. Financially, we are looking at, instead of a fiscal cliff, a debt mountain. We have had four consecutive trillion dollar deficits.
“We have $16 trillion dollars in total debt. And, there is an effort now to increase that beyond $16 trillion dollars. To put that into perspective, the amount of damage that’s done to our country on an annual basis now servicing this debt is in excess of $220 billion dollars.
“To put that into perspective, that $220 plus billion dollars that we’re spending for servicing past excesses is three times all of the relief sought by Hurricane Sandy victims. It’s more than four times what is being spent annually by the federal government on certain transportation infrastructure needs. If you want to talk about programs that are no longer available because of that money being spent on servicing our debt, think in terms of 12 or 13 NASAs. That’s the equivalent of how much money we are now spending just servicing debt, not paying it down. And so the question becomes: are we going to be financially responsible as we pay for disasters as they occur.
“To me, it’s an easy choice between helping Americans who need aid, and helping foreigners who desire aid. These are American tax dollars being spent, and I would submit that it’s best to spend those American tax dollars helping Americans that are in need.
“To kind of put it into perspective, here is an example of the choice. We could spend $531 million dollars on Tanzania, $368 million on Zambia, $652 million on Kenya, $625 million on Nigeria, or perhaps as much as $2 billion in New Castle County, Sussex County, Kent County, and other damaged areas in Delaware. We could spend $180 million in Indonesia, $142 million for the Philippines, $107 million in Vietnam, $85 million in the Republic of Georgia, or we could shift those kinds of sums to Atlantic City, Hoboken, and other places in New Jersey.
“We have people who are hurting in the United States of America but we also have a future that we have to look at, and each time we spend money we do not have, I would submit to the Members of this Committee, that furthers the risk of an American insolvency and bankruptcy, and if that were to happen it would debilitate our country. So I request your consideration of the two amendments that I have posited before you.”
Rep. Brooks excepted foreign aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan from his amendment because they are in active combat zones. Brooks also excepted Israel from his amendment because of the “heightened risk of conflict if Israel should be weakened… or if cutting them off should appear to be a move by the United States to distance ourselves from supporting Israel, which in turn would embolden Israel’s foes.”