Pennsylvania's senators followed the party line on the final passage of Hurricane Sandy funding last night, with Democrat Bob Casey voting in favor and Republican Pat Toomey voting against.
The Senate approved the House's delayed $51 billion package 62-36 with all Democrats voting aye -- joined by 9 Republicans -- and the rest of the GOP voting nay. (There were two absentees.) Both of the Republican senators from Mississippi (victimized by Hurricane Katrina in 2005) crossed the aisle as did one each from Louisiana and Alabama.
Toomey (as Keith Rothfus and other fiscal conservatives did before him) said he supported disaster funding but not when it included spending on items such as $15 million in repairs to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, $274 million for Coast Guard spending in the Bahamas and Great Lakes and for Smithsonian museum repairs.
"I can understand completely all of this money being spent, if that is the determination that every one of these projects that have nothing to do with Sandy still nevertheless need to be funded. But couldn't we offset that by trimming spending elsewhere so that we don't further accelerate this decline? We are heading toward a fiscal crisis," he said on the Senate floor.
UPDATE Casey said:
"I am pleased that Republicans and Democrats were able to come together to help the victims of Sandy and assure states like Pennsylvania that they don't have to go it alone when it comes to emergency preparedness. I will continue to work to ensure that all Pennsylvania counties who spent money preparing for Sandy are fully reimbursed by FEMA."
Toomey's full remarks are after the jump:
Mr. TOOMEY: Mr. President, I rise to continue this discussion about Superstorm Sandy.
I start by saying there isn't any doubt whatsoever about the severity of this tragedy or about the human suffering. It is absolutely the case that the needed emergency money should have been there already. There is a real, genuine need, and that need needs to be met. That is part of the reason I voted in favor of spending $24 billion, which could legitimately prescribe the kind of emergency funding that suffering people needed.
But I am concerned about two things: One is the fact that some people have used the occasion of the misery these people are suffering through to add on all kinds of spending that has absolutely nothing to do with Superstorm Sandy, and none of it is offset. So we have a $1.1 trillion budget deficit, and we are just adding another $60 billion right on top of that.
These are the items I would suggest that certainly don't have much to do with Superstorm Sandy: $15 million for NASA repairs at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; $274 million for the Coast Guard acquisitions in the Bahamas and Great Lakes; $2 million for Smithsonian repairs. Then there is another whole category of items, which is tens of billions of dollars, which is long-term construction projects for the mitigation against future storms and disasters.
Is that an important expenditure by the Federal Government? It probably is. It probably should be a high priority. But is it an emergency? Of course not. It is infrastructure. It is going to be spent over years, maybe decades, as we build seawalls to protect beaches off the coast from future storms which are years away.
Is that an important consideration? I think it is. But when we are running trillion-dollar deficits, I think it has to compete with the other legitimate demands for long-term spending and infrastructure spending and the ways that we are going to protect our country as well. But we have no such process here. And that is part of what is wrong. That is part of what is wrong with this town and why we are in such a mess. It is because this body—and Congress generally—just refuses to make choices.
So I can understand completely all of this money being spent, if that is the determination that every one of these projects that have nothing to do with Sandy still nevertheless need to be funded. But couldn't we offset that by trimming spending elsewhere so that we don't further accelerate this decline? We are heading toward a fiscal crisis. Unfortunately, I guess not—unless we adopt the Lee amendment.
The Lee amendment says let's trim all discretionary spending by one-half of 1 percent over the next 9 years. So can we find half a penny of every dollar that we would otherwise spend so that we would fully fund everything in this bill. Not a dime would get cut from this bill, but we wouldn't add to our deficit and further accelerate this path we are on to a fiscal crisis.
We don't have to wait any longer. We can do this right now. We don't have to cut a dime from this bill; we can fully fund this bill. But at some point we need to start making choices around here. At some point we can't just have everything. That is how you get trillion-dollar deficits. That is how you end up like Greece.
So I would just suggest, let's pass this bill. Let's spend all the money in the Sandy supplemental. But let's offset it with a cut of one-half of 1 percent in discretionary spending over the next 9 years. That is what the Lee amendment does, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.