Funding FEMA in Congress and the Irene Example

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Water from Hurricane Irene causes flooding in neighborhoods on August 28, 2011 in Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey. Water from Hurricane Irene causes flooding in neighborhoods on August 28, 2011 in Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey. (Michael Loccisano/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, U.S. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19), a co-chair with U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ 8th) of the Hurricane Irene coalition in Congress, discusses ongoing budget negotiations in Washington. Then, Representative Pascrell, who serves on the House Budget Committee and is a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, gives his take on how the federal government can fund FEMA for disaster relief and overcome another looming budget impasse. Plus both react to NJ Governor Christie's decision not to run for president.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell of the Paterson area and New York Republican Nan Hayworth of Upper Westchester to Poughkeepsie are the co-chairs of the bipartisan Hurricane Irene Congressional Coalition, which seeks to ensure that FEMA has adequate funding to help all those affected by the storm.

Last week government flirted with another shutdown over funding FEMA, though whether the solution will hold for the long-term remains to be seen. Last week FEMA found that it had adequate funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, averting the shutdown. Congress, in turn, provided for the agreed-upon $2.65 billion in baseline funding for FEMA for fiscal year 2012, which began last weekend.

The near shutdown came out of a disagreement between Republicans who wanted to pair the FEMA money with cuts to green energy initiatives, such as electric cars and solar energy, and Democrats who objected to such a pairing.

What Happened: The Republican Take

Hayworth said she “absolutely” agreed with the Republican provision.

Look at Solyndra. The federal government simply isn’t good at choosing commercial investments, nor should it be necessary for the federal government to do so. It is unfortunately usually a blatant waste of taxpayer dollars.

On the other side, people worry that the United States needs to stay competitive with countries like China, who are investing in alternative energy development.

Hayworth said the agreement reached last week does not mean that the committee’s work is done. While Hayworth said all the counties she serves have full disaster designation for Hurricane Irene and for Tropical Storm Lee, she said the committee has long-term goals as well.

We want to repair and replace better wherever feasible, so we’re working to put together a meeting, for example, between the Army Corp of Engineers and New York State’s DEC, so that we can improve drainage of the Wallkill River. Our farmlands in Western Orange County in the black-dirt region were devastated by Hurricane Irene, and those floodwaters remained for days longer than might have been the case had we had effective drainage. This is a problem that was brewing for years that has to be solved.

A recent Gallup poll found Congressional approval ratings are at 15 percent approval, 85 percent disapproval— a step up from the findings of the latest CBS News and Fox News polls, which both found an 11% approval rating for Congress.

Hayworth said that discontent is due to the economy.

We have a federal government right now that sits on our economy like a stone. It does not need to be that way, so this is an expression of frustration which I fully share.

She said that Christie’s allusion to New Jersey working better than Washington was fair.

I think there has to be a spirit of comity, no question… I think there has to be sincere effort to build a consensus… We have enormous opportunities for common ground with the Senate and with the president, and I would contend that the president, unfortunately, has assiduously ignored some of those areas.

Hayworth denied that the Republicans might be uncooperative, saying that representatives are simply defending the interests of their constituents. .

There is absolutely a spirit of cooperation. And yes… I prefer cooperation, everybody wins in that case. We will not, on either side, I am sure, compromise the principals that we represent… If we on the House Majority side see that a plan increases net burdens on the American people… we will oppose it. Not because we seek to be contrarians, but because we recognize that we were elected to lift burdens.

What Happened: The Democratic Take

Pascrell agreed that the issue of securing Hurricane funding is resolved in the short-term, but he sees long-term problems with the way it was resolved.

It has, for the first time, been attached to cutting other programs, robbing Peter to pay Paul. This is a stupid, this is a wrong-headedness, and this is the result of a Congress that is divided. No way of getting around it or putting frosting on the cake. It doesn’t work.

He said that linking cuts to FEMA funding is unprecedented, and unwise. While Republicans say that borrowing for FEMA would add to the national debt, Pascrell disagreed, comparing Irene – a disaster affecting thirty-two million people from fifty-two Congressional Districts--to the financial crisis.

When no one is spending money it’s up to the federal government to do what it can and then pay its bills later… So when people talk out of one side of their mouth about bipartisanship and we gotta get together, and we gotta reconcile this, well that’s all well and good, but your actions speak louder than your words.

Pascrell said Obama has been vilified from day one.

To call him a liar during his State of the Union speech, to call him a Nazi on and off camera, these people, some of them will stop at nothing. So when you want to talk about reconciliation, you need to lower your voice and then raise your commitment to the fact.

He said the approval ratings showing such frustration with Congress are understandable.

Nothing is getting done.. We each of us have to look within ourselves to make the situation better each day rather than simply putting fuel on the flames.

Pascrell said the priority now should be job-creation, and pointed out that under Clinton there were three years of balanced budgets, with taxes ion the most affluent increasing and wide job expansion.

Two House Democrats have now officially embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement --Keith Ellison from Minnesota and Raul Grijalva from Arizona signed a statement saying that they are inspired by the protesters and share their anger at Wall Street.

Pascrell said other Democrats have expressed similar statements in support.

As long as we don’t touch anarchy in any shape or form, I think we’re right on in embracing the very ideals. Look, when no one is held accountable, this is what happens.

He blames Republicans and the push for less regulation as increasing “scams” on Wall Street, and creating unemployment and wage stagnation.

When you make the connection between that and stagnant wages and unemployment… it is a powerful, powerful connection, and I hope folks minimize it, because you’re in for a big surprise.


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Comments [19]

Chris Pawelski from Warwick, New York

How desperate is our situation? Here is what we are reduced to, which I have been posting all over the internet:

Hurricane Irene has destroyed our onion crop and wiped out our family farm. The federal crop insurance program is worthless and no disaster aid is getting passed by this Congress for farmers in the northeast.

Know anyone that would like to buy a $150,000 bag of onions, save a farm and get a free 5 gallon bucket of dirt in the process?

Please visit the Ebay ad, check out the links on the ad, including media links about the disaster as well as my US Senate Agriculture Committee testimony last year about the deeply problematic federal crop insurance program and please spread this story!

Oct. 06 2011 08:34 AM
Chris Pawelski from Warwick, New York

Regarding working on the Wallkill River flooding problem, wow, I have to laugh about that. Since she came into office she has done nothing. Her predecessor, Rep. Hall, on the other hand, did a great deal of work on the issue, setting up a number of meetings, bring the Col. for the Army Corps District to the region, including to my farm and getting ACOE to do a Reconnaissance Study. All momentum by Hall was lost when Hayworth came in. In fact, in May she was interviewed by the Westchester Journal Editorial Board, which you can watch (, and at the end of the interview she talks about the black dirt and the Wallkill and she points out that NYS is holding things up regarding fixing the river and she actually calls on citizens to put pressure on NYS to do something about the Wallkill. Isn't that her job? What the hell is she there for? Now, as her political career is sinking, faster than my onions, she has a newfound interest in fixing the river. Where was Rep. Hayworth months ago when I met with her office or Sen. Gillibrand's staff tried contacting her office and we were blown off about this? Yes, blown off, multiple times. The Wallkill River flooded in the spring and she knew about it (see:, where was she then? She did nothing. Now, after making Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person's" list, now she's concerned.

I've lost my crop, I'm $200,000 in the hole and I don't have a clue what I am going to do. Sen. Schumer, Sen. Gillibrand, Rep. Hinchey and Rep. Gibson and Rep. Owens, amongst others, are doing everything they can, fighting House leadership to save us. It just nauseates me to listen to her spin this fiction.

Oct. 05 2011 03:06 PM
Chris Pawelski from Warwick, New York

I am an onion farmer in the black dirt region of the 19th District who with my wife has been actively involved in public policy issues involving farming, on the local, state and federal level for 15 years (see: & and have worked with elected officials from both parties over those 15 years. I can honestly say she is the absolute worst elected official I have ever dealt with, period. The most unresponsive, the most disinterested, the most harmful, etc .... First, we have been wiped out by Hurricane Irene, it is the most devastating weather event to strike our valley (see: and as the flood waters were still rising she was calling for offsets for FEMA (tho FEMA doesn't cover ag losses). She is beyond cruel. Two weeks ago I spent 3 days on Capitol Hill and I had meetings with Sen. Schumer's Gillibrand's Rep. Hinchey's staff, amongst others and while they are busting their tails to do everything they can to get us supplemental ag disaster relief, including working with Republican Rep. Chris Gibson of NY 20, who is very bi-partisan and is sticking his neck out for farmers, it was made very clear to me that Hayworth is doing nothing to help us out, is not sticking her neck out and is not bucking House leadership, she is worthless, PERIOD. For her to claim otherwise is pure hogwash.

Oct. 05 2011 03:05 PM
gary from queens

Yesterday, Senator McConnell "stepped up", as you would put it, by responding to Obama's challenge to Republicans to pass his so-called "jobs" bill. He called for a floor vote on the measure.

Senator Reid saw he didn't have enough Democrat votes to pass the legislation, so he blocked the vote.

Obama's bill is another payback to municipal workers, just like ther prior "stimulus" bills were. And knowing it cannot pass, it shows that it's just more political demagoguery to portray republicans and "anti job".

The fact is that Obama's gov spending is chasing away private investment. Who would want to start a business in a field in which your competitor is getting government subsidies or tax breaks, or is in partnership with the government, or is bailed out by government? We've had a capital strike for 2 years because Obama doesn't understand that wealth creation leads to profits that leads to jobs. Real jobs, that are not sustained through borrowed money, or taxing private worker Peter to pay municipal worker Paul.

Oct. 05 2011 02:38 PM
dpatriss from Manhattan

Nan Hayworth is a big reason why the Americans have an 11 percent view of the congress. She is not a compromiser and was with the group responsible for having Moody lower our rating and for daring to put conditions on helping our people in disasters by putting conditions on Fema because of her following the Republican line. she is no real moderate, the kind of politicians New Yorkers want.

Oct. 05 2011 10:49 AM
pop from NYC

As much as I enjoy Brain and NPR. I find myself angry that the right seems to always just use air time for left beating and GOP talking points and our political correct backbone just listens to this garbage because we want to figure out how these freaks possibly believe there own garbage. I am shocked that they have hoodwinked so many people

Oct. 05 2011 10:25 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

Good grief. Every time we turn around Republicans ARE increasing our taxes. When they take away benefits from the middle class and the poor and hand it over to the ultra wealthy through greater tax cuts -- what is that but a tax on the middle class and the poor? And how short sighted it is to take money away from the very programs that might slow down the environmental changes that are leading to climate change? I have to shut the radio off -- I am so tired of listening to people who have no clue how the rest of us scrape by.

Oct. 05 2011 10:25 AM

@phil from Park Slope

That is exactly what the "fine" Congresswoman said.

Oct. 05 2011 10:23 AM

Nan Hayworth:


Oct. 05 2011 10:22 AM
phil from Park Slope

Did Nan Hayworth really just say that we need to emulate the policies of a list of 2nd and 3rd world countries, ridden with crime, corruption, political oppression and poverty on a huge scale, where an oligarchy of super-capitalists lives in walled compounds surrounded by a sea of suffering and struggle? I think she did. Follow up question on that, Brian?

Oct. 05 2011 10:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

No, the Solyndra bankruptcy does not say it all. It's only 1 case among recipients of Federal loan guarantees, & it's not typical.

Oct. 05 2011 10:20 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

deciduously? like a tree?

if you were a tree, ms. haworth, which one would you be?

Oct. 05 2011 10:20 AM
karen from westchester

Hayworth is a liar and will be gone next time around - she was elected due solely to low turnout Right wingers have disabled the government and now blame Obama. Shame. My family suffers due to her and others like her. She makes me sick.

Oct. 05 2011 10:20 AM
dboy from nyc

4pm, today. Zuccatti Park.


Oct. 05 2011 10:19 AM
Ken from Little Neck

If government is sitting on the economy like a stone, as she claims, can she explain how the economy was doing so incredibly well in the 90's when government was far more directly involved in the economy than it is now?

Oct. 05 2011 10:18 AM

"Get your stinkin government hands off my FEMA money"

Oct. 05 2011 10:17 AM
dboy from nyc



Please. Enough of the HOLLOW pat GOP talking points!!

Oct. 05 2011 10:17 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Ugh! Nan Hayworth again. Why? Does she have that much free time?

Oct. 05 2011 10:08 AM

"reagan proved deficits don't matter" - dick cheney

Oct. 05 2011 09:43 AM

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