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Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Becomes Pork-Filled Christmas Present

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath of its destruction may prove to be one giant Christmas present for people far removed from New York and New Jersey. President Obama’s $60.4 billion request for Hurricane Sandy relief includes federal dollars that will end up everywhere from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Alaska.

Senator Mark Begich (Dem – AK), for example, said he will be delighted to include more than $200 million in pork barrel spending in the Sandy legislation. In a press release, the senator’s office explained:

Alaskans hard hit by fisheries disasters in recent years would be eligible for federal assistance, if a comprehensive federal disaster funding bill released today gains final Congressional passage. U.S. Senator Mark Begich joined the other members of Alaska’s congressional delegation in requesting the funding for Alaskans be included in the legislation, which also addresses the recent Superstorm Sandy which devastated the U.S. East Coast.

The measure proposes $150 million for the declared fisheries disasters in Alaska, New England and the Gulf of Mexico. Sen. Begich also requested that the bill include funding to address the marine debris washing up on the coasts of western states from the Japan earthquake of March 2011. …

Nearly $60 million will go to the charting and assessment of tsunami debris from the disaster in Japan earlier this year. Begich said, “It will be up to NOAA to decide how to allocate those funds between needs for East Coast Sandy response and West Coast tsunami debris response, so I will work closely with the agency to ensure Alaska’s needs get fairly considered.”

According to a statement from the White House, the Obama administration supports the Sandy bill:

The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of the amendment in the nature of the substitute to H.R. 1 providing supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2013 to respond to and recover from the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The Senate amendment will provide the necessary resources to continue ongoing response and recovery efforts, while helping impacted communities effectively mitigate future risk of disaster to prevent losses of this magnitude from recurring.

The amendment ensures urgent and essential needs are being met, while recognizing the need to prevent losses of this magnitude from future disasters.  Further, it ensures that funds are invested wisely to improve communities’ long-term resilience and protect against waste, fraud, and abuse. 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 supports the decision to not offset these funds.  The Administration remains committed to balanced deficit reduction, and it believes both parties can come together to achieve that, while ensuring communities affected by Hurricane Sandy have the support they need to recover.

Providing Federal funding for response, recovery, and mitigation following Hurricane Sandy will maintain the Nation’s tradition of pulling together to help one another in times of greatest need. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to refine the legislation and urges the Congress to pass a bill as soon as possible to give affected States and communities the support they need to recover and rebuild.

But it isn’t just crab fishermen in Alaska who stand to gain from the real and pressing needs of those left homeless after Sandy. This $60 billion pork-fest includes $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs in D.C., $8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice Departments, as well as a total of $150 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to hand out to fisheries in Alaska.

Budget watchdogs have labeled the ninety-four-page emergency-spending bill “Sandy Scam.” Matt Mayer of the conservative Heritage Foundation said, “The funding here should be focused on helping the community and the people, not replacing federal assets or federal items.”

As with so many bills that make it to the President’s desk, this one is bloated with pork with little or no accompanying justification based on the bill’s original intent.  “To throw out a number this large without in-depth analysis and formal request detailing the basis for it I think is premature and I wouldn’t support that,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (Rep – AL).

Even the usually liberal-leaning mayor of New York urged for more scrutiny of the federal spending. Mayor Bloomberg said, “You would think they’d want to ask questions before they give away the public’s money.”

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