When do budget cuts go too deep?
The Republican National Convention and Hurricane Issac spotlight a conundrum for the GOP, reducing the size of the government sounds good until the waters start rising.
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"It's important and it's money well spent, not just for us locally but for national assets like the ports and oil and gas production," Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana told the Los Angeles Times.Skip to next paragraph
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Louisiana's Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, wanted even more from the federal government.
After Obama signed an emergency declaration for the state, Jindal said it fell short of the help he was requesting. Jindal said he wanted more Louisiana parishes covered and urged Obama to have the federal government reimburse state and local government agencies for storm preparation efforts.
Vitter on Wednesday weighed in with his own letter to Obama echoing Jindal's request.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said such requests would be addressed after the storm. But Jindal stood by his demand. "We learned from past experiences, you can't just wait," he said. "You've got to push the federal bureaucracy."
Such aid might have been harder to come by had Romney's running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, had his way. Ryan, the chairman of the House budget committee, earlier this year tried to eliminate $10 billion a year in disaster spending. Instead, Ryan proposed that when emergencies arise, Congress pay for the disaster costs by cutting from elsewhere in the budget. Ryan lost after his own party leaders balked. But he had support from many tea party backed Republicans.
"The rhetoric would make you believe that a major portion of the government is designed to take care of Democratic constituencies and Democratic priorities," said Scott Lilly, former Democratic staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. "The truth is that most of government is made up of programs that we all depend on and many of us depend very heavily on, and the Republicans turn out to be even more dependent in many instances than Democrats. The states that are targets for hurricanes are generally not blue states."
Vitter aide Luke Bolar said federal spending on natural disasters isn't an example of fiscal indiscipline. "People who object haven't lived through a hurricane and what the local and municipal governments have to go through," Bolar said. "It's not like a bridge to nowhere."
Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.