Skip to comments.Cost of Katrina relief splits Republican ranks
Posted on 09/19/2005 5:00:32 PM PDT by Reagan Man
WASHINGTON President Bush's call to spend "whatever it takes" to rebuild the Gulf Coast set off alarm bells among some in his conservative base - and stepped up a growing debate among Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue on how to fix the battered region in ways that promote conservative values. From vouchers for education and Medicaid to the creation of a giant "opportunity zone" where Katrina struck, the Bush reconstruction effort - which he called "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen" - is reviving prospects for policy initiatives that GOP leaders say could make or break their party's future.
At the same time, fiscal conservatives, often outside of leadership, are calling for deep cuts in existing spending to pay the costs of reconstruction. They, too, see this as a fight for the soul of the Republican Party.
"It's too early to tell. It could wind up being the New Deal on steroids," says Mike Franc, vice president for governmental affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
For a president who campaigned on Ronald Reagan's legacy of limited government, the vast scope of needs in the region pose a special challenge. While President Roosevelt's New Deal and President Johnson's War on Poverty offer templates for a federal response, Republicans have campaigned for decades to roll them back.
"If people can agree that the last 40 years didn't help win the War on Poverty in New Orleans and the Gulf - and even hurt it - then the debate shifts into not replicating the last 40 years," says Mr. Franc.
But if the congressional committees bog down and can't agree on a package of reforms that can be financed without breaking the bank, "the default could be going with what we already have," he adds.
In recent weeks, Republican leaders have tasked every committee in Congress to come up quickly with new ideas that meet needs in the region.
These range from a vast package of tax breaks to revive business and housing in the Gulf, to Education Smart cards, which give families the option of paying for education wherever it is available and suits their needs, including private and parochial schools.
But to move such a plan, Republicans will need coherence in their own ranks, especially agreement across their caucus on how to pay for it. For fiscal conservatives, the biggest issue in the Gulf cleanup is its price tag, expected to exceed $200 billion. Congress has already appropriated $62 billion in emergency spending..
"Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren," says Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana, who chairs the Republican Study Group, a top conservative caucus.
The Heritage Foundation estimates that such levels of spending could bump budget deficits past $500 billion in 2008 to $873 billion in 2015.
In response, some conservative lawmakers are calling on their leaders to find offsets for new spending, including delaying implementing the new Medicare drug benefit, rolling back pork projects in recently passed Highway and Energy bills, and even deferring a vote on the permanent extension of Bush tax cuts. Last week, 11 House Republicans voted against a $52 billion hurricane relief bill in protest against the failure to identify offsets.
In a comment to reporters last week, House majority leader Tom DeLay said that after 11 years of a Republican majority, there wasn't much fat to cut in the federal budget.
The comment alarmed many conservative activists outside government who see the big spending ways of the Bush administration as a betrayal of small- government ideals.
"I have to pretty strongly disagree with the majority leader," says former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey, now head of the Club for Growth, an antitax group that backs Republican candidates.
"Whatever money gets spent on this reconstruction effort really needs to be offset by reductions somewhere else," he adds. "It's not the role of the federal government to be rebuilding houses and strip malls...."
At a closed leadership meeting on Thursday, House GOP leaders tried to bridge divisions in their caucus by promising strong accountability on where new federal dollars are going "Whatever is expended by Congress, we want to make sure it is funded appropriately and that states and local communities, as well as the private sector, share the burden," said a House leadership aide.
While Republicans have stood by the president as he expanded the role of government in local schools and the war on terrorism, the new wave of post-Katrina spending could break that consensus at a time when the Bush's job rating is at record lows.
The bid to work conservative programs, such as education vouchers, into Gulf aid could help bridge those gaps.
"It's window dressing for the benefit of social conservatives," says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.. "The president may feel that whatever support he will lose among fiscal conservatives, he will win from conservatives proud of him for bootlegging vouchers in the relief plan."
It is really not so much the cost, but WHO IS GOING TO PAY IT...the taxpayers or the states and their people??
You got it.
And then the question becomes what we taxpayers are going to pay for. The federal government should under no circumstances dirrectly underwrite the costs of rebuilding private assets. I guarantee that no matter how appealing and compassionate this might sound in the monen t of tragedy, in the long run, anyne who implemented such a policy would be savaged by the stories of abuse and fraud that would flow from such a program as surely as human nature.
On the other hand, I'd support loan gurantees to help folks get private mortgages to rebuild. It could be structured sort of like the old VA mortgage program. I'd support loans to local governments to help them restore their infrastructure.
I'd support direct expenditure in areas where the federal governement has primary responsibility such as for navigable waterways and flood control. Maybe the improvement of the leveee system is an appropriate place for the expenditure of federal funds.
Otherwise, I say put away the checkbook, and quick.
The American taxpayer.
talk radio starting to issue cautionary tones about today.
Very cautionary tones. Hannity was right on the money and if you read between the lines, Rush isn't happy either.
"Just stop your whining guys and stop attacking the President for everything under the sun."
Its not everything under the sun. Its just the fact that he's a fiscal liberal. Really... You can't deny it.
Ronald Reagan spent BILLIONS on defeating the Soviet Union.
Evidently SAVING American lives is not a worthy cause to some so called conservatives.
National private charities (Red Cross, Salvation Army, others), faith based charities and caring Americans are doing a tremendous job in helping those individuals hit hard by this disaster.
LOL---why am I not surprised that YOU are the one posting this article...
FWIW....I am a hugh Pence fan, as well as Jeb Hensarling, from my state...and Jeff Flake from Arizona..and the others in that conservative group....I wish them much, much success.
However, I will not walk over Bush's body to get to them...doncha know!
So, we are not on opposite sides...we just have different views of the same side!!!!
I will help you with your rebuttal:
"But he spends like a drunken sailor, the medicare pill bill, education bill, and now Katrina, blah, blah, blah...". Go ahead....
I've already written my congresscritters, but since they're all Dims (I'm trapped in Land of the Moonbats[tm]! Pray for me!) I truly doubt that THEY'LL close the wallets.
I know Congress holds the purse strings, but from the massive pork they just passed, our President needs to LEAD here and goad the Republican majority to CUT CUT CUT!!!
It can be done! All that is needed is the political will. I'm skeptical because of the recent rampant spending with talk (but no action) on cuts. I hope our folks come to their senses, and fast. Everybody who cares about their bottom line needs to be making themselves heard, as loudly as possible. CUT the pork from the transportation and energy bills! NOW is the time to revisit them, and not listen to DeLay (who says-- OMG I can't believe he said this-- we've already cut "to the bone"-- uh, no).
So all you have to do is pour enough pork into Louisiana and even those who claim to be fiscal conservatives can be brought around.
You just said why it won't be done. Congress lacks the will to stop spending, and President Bush lacks the will to use the veto to change that.
No, cutting spending and cutting government are the ultimate acts of fiscal conservatism. This president doesn't believe in that.
Republicans split over whatever...
The ones that "leave"...where do they go with their vote? Do they stay home on election day?
Another Perot-type candidate may emerge...and that would see history repeating itself by electing a Clinton to the Presidency with less than 44% of the popular vote.
IOW, what? Me worry??
There is NO WAY Hillary Clinton will be elected President. NONE ZILCH NADA.
...Ignores the dangers of NO border enforcement...And promised to appoint a Scalia-Thomas type justice to the Supreme Court, Dubya is (fill-in-the-blank.)
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