A fact check in The Washington Post of Ted Cruz’s ‘no” vote on the Disaster Relief Act of 2013 because of too much “pork” included in the bill was rated as “mostly false” Tuesday by completely ignoring inconvenient facts that topple their conclusion like a house of cards.
“Hypocrisy watch!” wrote Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post in his “fact-check”. “Now that Houston and much of southeastern Texas is swamped by Hurricane Harvey, critics (including Northeastern lawmakers) have complained that Texas senators and members of Congress are seeking emergency federal aid but refused to back relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.”
Many other media outlets are following suit. “More than 20 Texas representatives and senators voted against Sandy aid. How will they vote on Harvey?” read a Los Angeles Times headline Monday, seemingly comparing both situations. “It’s unclear whether Cruz will apply the same standards for federal aid this time” Politico reported Monday.
Jim Acosta, referenced The Post’s fact-check while confronting Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber on his voting record regarding Sandy, asking him if he regrets opposing the bill in hindsight; again, comparing Sandy’s disaster relief spending to what Texas lawmakers are requesting now.
Sold as an urgent and emergency measure to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, 74 percent of the money in the Disaster Relief Act of 2013 remained unspent an entire year after it passed. Moreover, it proved “difficult to determine exactly where” much of the money was being spent, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, dedicated to eliminating government waste.
Nearly 64 percent of the bill was spent long after 2014, and will continue to be spent as late as 2021.
“Still, it’s all related to disaster relief” writes Kessler about the spending. Even if all the funds were related to disaster relief, the legal standard to appropriate funds without statutory offsets requires more. Kessler himself acknowledges the bill included “provisions [that] were intended to prevent future disasters but arguably were not related to Sandy. But that’s less than 2 percent of the total.”
“As far as the bill/amendment at hand, the upshot is that there are billions of dollars in spending that is not Sandy related” an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense revealed in January 2013.
The bill included $8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice Departments. $16 billion was used for Community Development Block Grants which essentially act as a handout to cronies, and seldom get to people they’re supposed to help. A whopping $13 billion was to be spent on “mitigation” projects to prepare for future storms.
The bill also included:
- $150 million for Alaska fisheries
- $41 million for military bases
- $5.2 million for the DOJ
- $4 million for Kennedy Space Center in Florida
- $3.5 million for Homeland Security
- $2 million for Smithsonian Institution in DC
The bill also removed any cost sharing with local and state government’s Corps of Engineers projects totaling billions of dollars that were required in previous natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. This could explain the hostility towards Cruz from Northeastern lawmakers, including Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, that wanted to shift costs from their constituents to the federal government entirely.
Even if Kessler’s claim were true, a relation to Sandy wasn’t a sufficient condition to receive emergency funds for disaster relief.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey is precisely why the emergency supplemental appropriations loophole, the same one used to pass the Disaster Relief Act of 2013, was added to the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) – to provide immediate relief necessary for “emergencies.” Per the BCA, emergencies are defined as “urgent, which means a pressing and compelling need requiring immediate action.”
Emergency supplemental appropriations allow congress to spend money above and beyond the normal or “non-catastrophic” disasters or emergencies regularly appropriated in any given year.”These types of appropriations are supposed to cover emergencies, disaster relief, or other needs that are determined to be too urgent to be postponed until the next enactment of regular appropriations” according to Justin Bogie, senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs for the Heritage Foundation.
Emergency appropriations are not beholden to the Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, or spending cap constraints required by the Budgetary Enforcement Act of 1990. “These bills can be initiated by either Congress or the President and there is virtually no limit on the amount of additional spending that may be passed” explains Bogie.
Presumably, this is why Texas Republican lawmakers, including Cruz, are asking for federal funds to help with an urgent and unforeseen natural disaster.
“Many Republicans said that the emergency spending should have been offset by cuts elsewhere” writes Kessler at The Post. Kessler never mentions that Republicans said this because most of the spending for Sandy was not for “emergency” relief. The Disaster Relief Act was passed three months after Sandy hit the Northeast. No matter how you spin it, it’s hard to classify that as emergency spending.