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House votes to tack Sandy aid onto deficit
The House voted Tuesday against cutting the budget to pay for Superstorm Sandy relief spending, in a showdown that underscored the deep consensus in Congress for deficit spending when a natural disaster strikes.
Some conservatives tried to rally for spending cuts, proposing across-the-board cuts to cover an initial $17 billion in Sandy spending, but they were overwhelmed by their colleagues in both parties, who defeated the amendment 258-162.
"There are times when disasters simply go beyond our ability to offset. Hurricane Sandy is one of those times," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican. Mr. Rogers said it's become tradition to tack emergency spending onto the deficit without finding ways to offset it.
A coalition of 187 Democrats, joined by 71 Republicans — those from the affected areas in the Northeast, and GOP defense hawks who objected to any cuts to military spending — joined together to defeat the amendment.
Lawmakers were slated to vote later on in the day on the full package, which is likely to total $50 billion after all amendments are tallied.
Earlier this month Congress passed $10 billion in additional borrowing authority for the federal flood insurance program, bringing total expected Sandy spending to $60 billion.
All of that will be added to the 2013 deficit, almost certainly guaranteeing another trillion-dollar deficit for the fifth straight year.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina Republican, offered the proposal to cut other spending to pay for at least some of the Sandy relief funds.
He said the country set a wrong precedent in past disasters, by not finding offsets, and said with the country's debt now bumping up against its $16.39 trillion limit, that must change.
"The time has come and gone in this nation where we can walk in and spend $9, or $17, or $60 billion and not talk about who's paying for it," he said.
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By Brahma Chellaney
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