Hurricane Sandy prompts STRONG words

Hurricane Sandy has prompted STRONG words in recent days.

Strong words from Governor Christie (R-NJ) and U.S. Congressman Peter King, (R-NY) got the greatest press coverage. Both blasted Speaker of the House John Boehner following the failure of the House to pass a $60B hurricane Sandy relief measure as part of the final legislation from the 112th Congress averting the fiscal cliff scenario. According to CNN, Christie had this to say: “Last night, the House majority failed most basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state. … It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.” …”There’s only one group to blame … the House majority, and their Speaker, John Boehner.” He added that the relief bill “just could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House majority.”

King added this: “I’m saying that anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined. I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night.”

House leadership protested they would make matters right, but the legislation passed since has only covered $10B of the $60B needed.

Or was the funding needed? Saturday’s Washington Post carried an editorial suggesting that Mr. Boehner had done the country a service, arguing the $10B covered money needed for NFIP funds, and that how and where to best spend the remaining $50B to build infrastructure resilience should still be subject to debate. As the country remains in the economic doldrums and as disaster costs continue to rise, expect more foot-dragging on disaster relief in future years.

On the other hand, we have STRONG language of a different sort from Senators Kerry (D-MA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Gillibrand (D-NY). The three have introduced S. 3691, the Strengthening The Resiliency of Our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act.

According to Senator Kerry’s press release, “The Strengthening The Resiliency of Our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act helps optimize government resources and funding by promoting better coordination of existing federal efforts and putting a greater focus on pre-disaster efforts.  First, the bill directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to chair a high-level interagency working group to assess extreme weather resiliency activities currently being conducted by federal agencies across key sectors.  Part of the assessment would include identifying gaps and potentially conflicting policies that need to be addressed.  The Office of Science and Technology Policy would then develop and implement a plan, using a public clearinghouse of information among other strategies, to better support state, local, and private and public sector resiliency efforts in the short and long-term.

A federal advisory group composed of state and local representatives will play a key consultative role throughout the process, as will an advisory group composed of private and public representatives.”

You can find the full text of the bill here.

STRONG words. Interesting reading. A welcome addition to the national discussion. We can expect more legislation in coming months.

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