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Hurricane Sandy relief bill passes Senate. Provides important aid but House R’s efforts to strip out $ for planning to rebuild survive.

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Tonight the Hurricane Sandy emergency funding bill from the House of Representatives H.R.152 : Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, was taken up in the Senate with limited debate – quite limited. The bill passed the Senate with 62 votes, a bipartisan rare success in DC, with nine Republicans joining 53 Democrats.

NASA image of Hurricane Sandy

NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy which resulted in massive damage to coastal communities

The $50.5 billion aid package to help the region recover is now on its way to President Obama’s desk, but like much legislation that is drafted in DC, it isn’t perfect. Unlike some errors that appear in legislation which are the result of late night drafting under tight deadlines or simple inability to predict a changing set of future circumstances which result in unintended consequences, some problems with legislation are quite intentional, and the bill that passed today contains a very intentional problem.

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas’s 14th district (Waco, College Park and nearby areas) has been adamant about defunding anything that comes through the House with connections to a wide-reaching set of plans to make government more efficient and improve the planning in our coastal and ocean waters. Those plans, crafted over a number of years by multiple bi-partisan commissions, were combined and announced during President Obama’s first year in office through an Executive Order which established the nation’s first National Ocean Policy.

Rep. Flores’ efforts to object to the President’s plans have thus far aimed at removing the funding for efforts to have more sensible planning occur in the U.S. coastal zone and ocean waters, and he’s been fairly successful in getting provisions added to House spending bills.  In the 112th Congress efforts to oppose the National Ocean Policy in the House were successful, but those successes met a quick end when Senate bills which lack such provisions run into the differing House language in Conference Committee. Ultimately the House language drops out…or it did in the 112th Congress.

To expedite the relief for victims of the Hurricane Sandy disaster Senate leadership fought to bring the House bill up for consideration with the minimum amendments possible. In fact only one Republican – Senator Mike Lee of Utah – had an amendment which was considered. That amendment proposed to fully offset the relief aid costs with cuts to discretionary funding, an amendment popular with Tea Party groups, but which fell well below the necessary 60 votes and failed 35-62.  That meant the Senate was voting on the House version of the bill as-is, including the provision from Rep. Flores to cut $150M in grant support for Regional Planning Bodies.

image of flooded taxis

Flooding resulted in economic losses and also damage to transportation infrastructure communities depend upon. Will we plan better for the next flooding event?

On the surface for those not immersed in governance issues for a living, the Flores amendment looks reasonable as it saves money by eliminating funds for NOAA pass-through funds which look to some to be unrelated to the disaster recovery. But to the informed the cuts which save $150M endanger the effectiveness of the $50.5B in federal dollars slated to flow to the region. The Regional Planning Bodies are structured with a membership that includes federal agencies, states and tribes, with input from a range of groups representing the private sector.  It is precisely that sort of broad membership which would be well positioned to discuss not simply how to rebuild what was lost, but how to make it better and most importantly in the context of disaster response, how to make what is rebuilt more resilient.

Whether Rep. Flores’ efforts are simply naive penny wise pound foolish, or whether they are a calculated effort to frustrate President Obama’s efforts to govern at every available turn is unclear. But what is clear is that $50.5B is a major federal investment, and we can only hope the federal agencies, states, tribes and localities can find ways not prohibited by the legislation to collaborate and rebuild in a coordinated way that is mindful of our changing climatic conditions. We need policies and practices that mitigate a changing climate with a systematic approach to adaptation, not a piecemeal approach that leaves some communities much better planned while others are left unnecessarily in harm’s way. The $150M that was cut from the $50.5B package made just such a well crafted response a bit harder.

The author of this blog is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

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Rep. Bill Flores, R-TX, opposes Obama ocean policies and strips $150M from Hurricane Sandy relief bill

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ANALYSIS:

The first attack in the 113th Congress on President Obama’s ocean policy, which include strengthening regional partnerships through the assistance of federal grants, was filed by ongoing opponent to the President’s National Ocean Policy, Rep. Bill Flores (Republican from a landlocked district in Texas).

image of Rep. Bill Flores

Rep. Bill Flores, former oil and gas driller from the Waco, TX area consistently opposes anything that is related to the President’s National Ocean Policy. His amendment to the Hurricane Sandy Relief strips 150K in funding for regional ocean partnerships.

House Amendment 6 to the House version of H.R.152 : Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 (aka Hurricane Sandy relief), reads as follows:

“AMENDMENT PURPOSE:
An amendment numbered 2 printed in Part C of House Report 113-1 to strike $150,000,000 for Regional Ocean Partnership grants.”

On January 15, 2013 the Flores amendment (A004) was agreed to by recorded vote: 221 – 197 (Roll no. 16)

The votes for and against are listed below.

On Monday afternoon of January 28, 2013, the Senate plans to take up the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, with only one amendment expected to be introduced – Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah has proposed an amendment that would offset the $50.5 billion in emergency aid (lawmakers are expected to reject that amendment), allowing final passage of the Senate bill later Monday night. No Senate amendments to oppose the House language and reinstate the Regional Ocean Partnership grants are anticipated.

inage of map of Congressional District 17 in Texas

Rep. Bill Flores represents the 17th Congressional District in Texas, an area south of Dallas that includes Waco and College Station. His dogged opposition to President Obama’s National Ocean Policy seems odd, given his district’s geography, until the fact emerges that in 2005 prior to coming to Congress Flores served on served on board of Phoenix Exploration Company, Marine Drilling Companies, Inc.  Offshore oil drilling companies generally prefer the status quo, and as such oppose President Obama’s efforts to create a system that rationally and openly determines which of the conflicting offshore uses are most in the national interest.

When looking to the motivations of those who oppose changes to the current first-come-first-served irrational way we currently permit offshore uses in the USA, allegiances to the traditional users (extractive industries such as oil and gas production or mining) or the new users (green energy such as wind and wave power) of the coasts are worth examining.

According to the homepage for Rep. Flores at http://flores.house.gov, Flores “worked in the energy industry for nearly three decades. During that time, he served as a CFO, COO or CEO for successful energy companies, ultimately serving as President and CEO of Phoenix Exploration Company, an oil and gas company focused upon the discovery of American oil and gas.”

The author of this blog is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

*the original article headline mistakenly indicated a $150K cut in funding, while the article noted correctly the cuts were $150M. The headline has been corrected to match the content of the article.

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 16, Flores Amendment to strip funding for Regional Ocean Partnerships

(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

H R 152      RECORDED VOTE      15-Jan-2013      6:39 PM
AUTHOR(S):  Flores of Texas Part C Amdt. No. 2 to Frelinghuysen of New Jersey Amdt.
QUESTION:  On Agreeing to the Amendment

Ayes

Noes

PRES

NV

Republican

214

14

4

Democratic

7

183

10

Independent
TOTALS

221

197

 

14

—- AYES    221 —

Aderholt
Amash
Amodei
Bachmann
Bachus
Barr
Barton
Benishek
Bentivolio
Bilirakis
Bishop (UT)
Black
Blackburn
Bonner
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Bridenstine
Brooks (AL)
Brooks (IN)
Broun (GA)
Buchanan
Bucshon
Burgess
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Cantor
Capito
Carney
Carter
Cassidy
Chabot
Chaffetz
Coble
Coffman
Cole
Collins (GA)
Collins (NY)
Conaway
Cook
Cotton
Cramer
Crawford
Cuellar
Culberson
Daines
Davis, Rodney
Denham
Dent
DeSantis
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Duffy
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Ellmers
Farenthold
Fincher
Fleischmann
Fleming
Flores
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Gardner
Garrett
Gibbs
Gibson
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Green, Gene
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Guthrie
Hall
Hanna
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hastings (WA)
Heck (NV)
Hensarling
Herrera Beutler
Holding
Hudson
Huelskamp
Huizenga (MI)
Hultgren
Hunter
Hurt
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Jones
Jordan
Joyce
Kelly
Kind
King (IA)
Kinzinger (IL)
Kline
Labrador
LaMalfa
Lamborn
Lankford
Latham
Latta
Long
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Marchant
Marino
Massie
Matheson
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McClintock
McHenry
McKeon
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
Meadows
Meehan
Messer
Mica
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Mullin
Mulvaney
Murphy (PA)
Neugebauer
Noem
Nugent
Nunnelee
Olson
Palazzo
Paulsen
Pearce
Perry
Peterson
Petri
Pittenger
Pitts
Poe (TX)
Pompeo
Posey
Price (GA)
Radel
Reed
Reichert
Renacci
Ribble
Rice (SC)
Rigell
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Rooney
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross
Rothfus
Royce
Ryan (WI)
Salmon
Scalise
Schock
Schrader
Schweikert
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Southerland
Stewart
Stivers
Stockman
Stutzman
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tipton
Turner
Upton
Valadao
Wagner
Walberg
Walden
Walorski
Weber (TX)
Webster (FL)
Wenstrup
Westmoreland
Whitfield
Williams
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Wolf
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Yoho
Young (AK)
Young (IN)

—- NOES    197 —

Alexander
Andrews
Barber
Barletta
Barrow
Bass
Beatty
Becerra
Bera
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown (FL)
Brownley (CA)
Bustos
Butterfield
Capps
Capuano
Carson (IN)
Cartwright
Castor (FL)
Castro (TX)
Chu
Cicilline
Clarke
Clay
Clyburn
Cohen
Connolly
Conyers
Cooper
Costa
Courtney
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis, Danny
DeFazio
DeGette
Delaney
DeLauro
DelBene
Deutch
Dingell
Doggett
Doyle
Duckworth
Edwards
Ellison
Engel
Enyart
Eshoo
Esty
Farr
Fattah
Fitzpatrick
Foster
Frankel (FL)
Frelinghuysen
Fudge
Gabbard
Gallego
Garamendi
Garcia
Gerlach
Grayson
Green, Al
Grijalva
Grimm
Gutierrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Heck (WA)
Higgins
Himes
Hinojosa
Holt
Honda
Horsford
Hoyer
Huffman
Israel
Jeffries
Johnson, E. B.
Kaptur
Keating
Kennedy
Kildee
Kilmer
King (NY)
Kuster
Lance
Langevin
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lee (CA)
Levin
Lewis
Lipinski
LoBiondo
Loebsack
Lofgren
Lowenthal
Lowey
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Lynch
Maffei
Maloney, Carolyn
Maloney, Sean
Markey
Matsui
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
McIntyre
McNerney
Meeks
Meng
Michaud
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Murphy (FL)
Nadler
Neal
Nolan
O’Rourke
Owens
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor (AZ)
Payne
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Peters (CA)
Peters (MI)
Pingree (ME)
Pocan
Polis
Price (NC)
Quigley
Rahall
Rangel
Richmond
Roybal-Allard
Ruiz
Runyan
Ruppersberger
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schneider
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Serrano
Sewell (AL)
Shea-Porter
Sherman
Shimkus
Sinema
Sires
Slaughter
Smith (NJ)
Smith (WA)
Swalwell (CA)
Takano
Thompson (CA)
Tiberi
Tierney
Titus
Tonko
Tsongas
Van Hollen
Vargas
Veasey
Vela
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walz
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Welch
Wilson (FL)
Yarmuth
Young (FL)

—- NOT VOTING    14 —

Cárdenas
Cleaver
Crenshaw
Emerson
Jackson Lee
Johnson (GA)
Kingston
Kirkpatrick
Napolitano
Negrete McLeod
Nunes
Schwartz
Speier
Thompson (MS)