Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Denham bill would try to speed up disaster cleanups and repairs

Jeff Denham in his congressional office last year.

Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle files this observation about House maneuvers:

WASHINGTON — Sophomore Rep. Jeff Denham started his second term in the spotlight Monday, as he shepherded a disaster relief bill through a House that sometimes stumbles over the topic.

Seizing an opportunity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Turlock Republican recast as the “Sandy Relief Improvement Act” a previously written package that streamlines Federal Emergency Management Agency operations. But unlike other post-Sandy efforts, including some initiated by one of Denham’s San Joaquin Valley colleagues, this one sidesteps Capitol Hill controversy.

“It’s a bipartisan bill, one with everyone on the same page,” Denham said.

The House legislation is supposed to improve how FEMA responds to natural disasters and other emergencies. The 29-page bill speeds environmental reviews for hazard mitigation projects, simplifies debris removal and authorizes the agency to repair homes as an alternative to leasing trailers for temporary housing, among other steps.

Despite its title, the legislation is not specifically targeted at the East Coast communities ravaged by Sandy last October. Instead, it is a national bureaucracy fix. Denham indicated Monday that he believes all potential issues have been negotiated.

Denham’s bill arose Monday under House procedures designed for non-controversial measures, unlike a higher-profile Sandy relief bill set for House consideration Tuesday.

David Valadao

That larger House package comes out of a different committee, and includes some $50 billion for disaster relief.  House members proposed about 90 amendments to the separate Sandy relief bill. Some will put lawmakers on the spot on whether they want to offset the Sandy spending with cuts elsewhere. This could prove a particular test for freshmen members like Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, who now sits on the House Appropriations Committee, which will oversee for the Sandy relief bill.

“I know how important the supplemental relief is to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, but I believe we can provide that relief while finding ways to pay for it, rather than adding to the nation’s ballooning deficit,” said Rep. Mike Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican who authored some of the amendments.

In a similar vein, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville, whose new district includes Mariposa and parts of Madera and Fresno counties, is pushing his own amendments that include stripping out $16 billion designed to aid the 47 states that have had a designated major disaster declaration since 2011. In California, this would cut out funding for Del Norte and Santa Cruz counties, hit by a tsunami in 2011.

McClintock’s amendment would also have the effect of cutting out disaster funding for Madera, Mariposa and Tulare counties, which were among 12 California counties included in a 2011 major disaster declaration following winter storms. Though its long-term prospects appear bleak, the amendment does send a message some conservatives share.

Responses

Dave says:

Let the states, cities and individuals pay for their own losses—that is what insurance is for. In this area we suffer little if any losses, but pay trillions for others who especially like to live where the risks are far greater—as long as the taxpayer foots their bills.

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