Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FEMA does Congress' job for them, this time

That emergency budget bill finally passed.  Here's how it all came out.  The emergency budget bill got stuck in the Senate, where it was trapped by more politicking and grandstanding.  Read some of the outrageous stuff the Senators were saying, at Yahoo! News.

If that article, and others on CNN and other websites, are accurate, then it looks like nobody standing at the podium in the Senate chamber cared one way or the other about the looming government shutdown, or the disaster victims in the northeastern U.S.  They only cared about winning.  In their eyes, this budget bill had nothing to do with the good of the country or the fate of the disaster victims.  It had everything to do with political power - winning and losing.

Nobody was going to compromise on this.  The elected officials only wanted to engage in posturing, stonewalling, and name-calling.  It was Business As Usual.

And what hung in the balance, other than the poor lady in Vermont whose house was nothing but a naked frame with the wind blowing through, was funding to keep the Federal Emergency Management Agency running.  If this bill didn't pass, the federal government would shut down, including FEMA - and that lady in Vermont was depending on FEMA to help her.

(We can save for another time the debate on the merits of FEMA, or whether hurricane and earthquake victims should depend on federal agencies to help them recover.  That's peripheral to the crisis happening in Washington DC right now.)

Once more, to make it clear:  the fiscal year ends on September 30.  The problem was that FEMA would run out of funds before the end of the fiscal year, and this budget bill was an emergency bill to keep FEMA, and other agencies, running until then.  You may think it's only 3 days, but a lot of money passes through Washington's hands in 3 days.  If the U.S. government shuts down for one day, that's a big enough problem.

In the end, a compromise was reached.  It wasn't the Democrats.  It wasn't the Republicans.  It wasn't the Senate.  It wasn't the House of Representatives.

It was FEMA.

FEMA, not wanting to shut down (obviously), had a look at their accounts and figured out a way they could legally shuffle things so that they could make it through Friday.  Once they figured it out, they told the Senate leaders, who must have looked a bit confused and said, "Oh, okay then."  Shortly afterwards, the Senate voted 79-12 to approve it.  Now, according to Yahoo, it goes back to the House for a final rubber stamp.  Let's hope they can manage that.

Just so you know where I stand on this:  Our elected legislators in Washington DC have proven for the third time this year that when the chips are down, they can't legislate their way out of a wet paper bag.  If they can't complete a task this (relatively) simple, we cannot depend on them to achieve anything really, seriously important.  This Congress is totally dysfunctional, and anything they try to do is doomed to failure.

No comments: