WASHINGTON — As floods ravage the Mississippi basin and the South picks itself up from last month’s devastating tornadoes, Republicans controlling a key House panel boosted funding for relief efforts on Friday to address a major shortfall in the Obama administration’s disaster aid budget.
The $850 million boost awarded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster payments to individuals and municipalities, however, only partially fills a hole estimated at $3 billion or more — and that’s before the bills come in from the recent wave of disasters.
The FEMA funding was approved as a House Appropriations panel approved a $42.3 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security by a voice vote. It’s the first of 12 spending bills for 2012 to begin to advance.
Congress will have to revisit the issue next year as disaster funds run dry. And that sets up a big question for GOP leaders: Should other programs be cut to help flood and tornado victims or would it be okay to fund them as an unforeseeable emergency? Tea party-backed GOP conservatives seem likely to fight against the latter option, which would pad the deficit by perhaps $3 billion.