WASHINGTON — Gov. Mary Fallin signed a letter to House leaders on Monday urging swift action on federal aid for Hurricane Sandy relief, but Oklahoma's two newest House members already have shown their reluctance to provide money to the stricken area without cuts to spending elsewhere.
Fallin, a Republican and the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, cosigned a letter with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat and the chairman of the association, saying that, “Providing disaster relief is not and never should be a political issue.
“While state and federal governments are working tirelessly to respond and recover from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, federal assistance is necessary to provide both immediate and long term assistance to get states, communities and citizens back on their feet.”
The letter was sent to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, on behalf of the nation's governors.
The House is expected to begin consideration Tuesday of legislation that would provide up to $50 billion in federal aid for the northeastern states hit hard by the storm in October; that's in addition to nearly $10 billion approved earlier this month for the national flood insurance program.
Oklahoma's two freshman House members, Republican Reps. Markwayne Mullin and Jim Bridenstine, voted against the bill two weeks ago to allow federal officials to borrow more money to pay flood insurance claims related to Sandy.
In all, 67 Republicans voted against that bill, which passed easily.
Mullin and Bridenstine argued that the increased borrowing authority should have been offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
“While the Obama administration has argued that emergency spending should be exempt from offsets, we cannot continue to spend money that doesn't exist,” Bridenstine said about the bill.
90 amendments added
A spokeswoman for Bridenstine declined to say Monday whether the lawmaker would vote for additional aid that is not offset with other cuts. She noted that more than 90 amendments had been offered on the bill to be taken up Tuesday.
Some of the amendments would cut spending at other agencies to offset the federal disaster assistance.
The governors' letter says it has been 70 days since the nation's second-worst natural disaster hit the East Coast.
“Further delays in action will only extend the recovery time for the more than 17.5 million people impacted by the storm,” the letter states.
The White House released a statement Monday saying, “Given the emergency and one-time nature of this supplemental appropriation, and in keeping with the response to Hurricane Katrina, Deepwater Horizon, and other disasters, the administration believes that all funding in the bill should be designated as an emergency requirement and not be offset.”