WASHINGTON -- Republican lawmakers have been quick to rush to the assistance of disaster victims with that priceless commodity, prayer, but when it comes to tangible assets, they've been a bit less spirited.
An email circulated by the office of Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) and obtained by The Huffington Post asked lawmakers to co-sponsor H. Res 254, a straightforward measure encouraging Congress and the American public to pray for the victims of the recent disasters in the United States.
From the email sent out to congressional offices on Tuesday:
Severe tornadoes and record amounts of flooding in the South, Southeast, and lower Midwest have taken hundreds of lives and caused thousands of injuries. Property damage could reach into the billions of dollars, uprooting entire communities throughout the region.
The Southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, and Southwest have been experiencing the worst drought conditions in decades, leading to wildfires that have burned more than 2.2 million acres and caused massive losses in agricultural production. These wildfires have resulted in deaths, the destruction of homes and business, and severe financial hardship.
Many communities have been devastated by these disasters, but have maintained a spirit of resiliency, hope, and faith. It is only appropriate that Congress and the American people come together in prayer for the victims of the disasters and their families, and for the fair weather conditions that these regions desperately need.
The message was signed by Neugebauer, as well as Reps. Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.) and Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.).
All three lawmakers voted for the House FY 2011 continuing resolution, which included significant cuts to funding for the federal response to weather, climate and natural disasters (The cuts were no longer in the bill by the time it went through the Senate and was signed by the President).
For example,funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's state and local programs was slashed $783.3 million below FY 2010 levels. The FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program lost $35 million. The part of FEMA's budget for emergency food and shelter was cut $100 million, and Assistance to Firefighter Grants lost $510 million.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lost $454.3 million in the House's continuing resolution. In March, the agency warned that insufficient funds budgeted for its next generation of polar orbiting satellites could potentially weaken the accuracy of its weather forecasting, especially pertaining to severe events such as blizzards and hurricanes.
The National Weather Service, which is part of NOAA, lost $126 million from FY 2010 levels in the House bill.
"This is the congressional equivalent of having a mortgage lender take your house and then tell all his friends how bad he feels for you," said a Democratic operative who used to work in Congress. "The fact that these guys have no sense of irony or shame is just revolting."
Neugebauer's office declined comment, and Pearce and Bachus did not respond.