An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service
September 03, 2005
By voice votes and a disregard of procedural niceties, the House on Thursday and the Senate on Friday approved $10.5 billion for rescue, relief and cleanup. A relative handful of lawmakers returned to Washington early for the vote rather than wait until Tuesday, when Congress officially returns from its Labor Day recess. It's well that they did because the symbolism of further delay would have been awful, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have been on the edge of running out of money.
Of that amount, $10 billion goes to FEMA and $500 million to the Defense Department, but even so, it is expected to last only a few weeks. White House budget director Josh Bolten said it was only "a stopgap measure," and other emergency appropriations bills are likely to come along in close order as cost estimates become clearer.
This first installment was straightforward, but politics will likely intrude on subsequent measures. These will be must-pass bills that no one wants to be seen as blocking so it is inevitable that members of Congress and special-interest lobbyists will try to attach pet projects to them. This happened after 9/11 when special-interest measures were gussied up with the label "security."
The congressional leadership must be far tougher than in the past to see that the coming emergency measures are not loaded down with pork, as was the shameful highway bill. The budget deficit will take a big enough hit as it is from legitimate Katrina spending.
The Republican-led Congress has a poor record of setting and sticking to spending priorities. This is a good chance to start anew.
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