WASHINGTON -- After first fighting to see the House pass a more generous disaster aid package advanced by the Senate, a Republican congressman now says fiscal responsibility is as important as his flood-stricken constituents.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) voted against the $1.043 trillion continuing budget resolution to keep the government running Wednesday because it only had about a billion dollars of immediate disaster relief.
"This continuing resolution does not do enough to rebuild the lives of people who lost everything they own," Barletta said after the vote. "It doesn't do enough to fund mitigation efforts so this type of flooding doesn't happen again. It doesn't do enough to help local businesses reopen and protect American jobs."
But he voted for the continuing resolution Thursday night, after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) re-offered the bill –- not with more money, but more cuts elsewhere to pay for the disaster relief. Senate leaders –- including Republicans –- had warned they would not pass such a measure.
Barletta explained his switch Friday by saying he did everything he could, and that Boehner promised him hard-hit Pennsylvanians would get what they need.
But he also argued that it was simply time for Washington to be more responsible with money.
"Right now we've got to make sure FEMA is first, but we also have a way to pay for it, because that's how this country got into this mess," Barletta told reporters.
Asked why it was worth it to pick a fight with the Senate over funding that amounts to less than 1 percent of the larger bill -– and risk holding that money up –- Barletta pointed to the bigger picture.
"I'm interested in getting money to these folks as soon as possible, and be responsible as we do it -- this is not the only disaster in America," he said. "There are 48 disasters that FEMA is trying to pay for right now."
Although the bill Boehner passed Thursday moved further from the Senate's version, Barletta suggested he shifted his stance because that's what the public wants.
"The American people asked us to go to Washington and be responsible, and that's what we're doing," he said. "We're prioritizing and giving all the money that FEMA needs for disasters, but at the same time being responsible and paying for it. That's what the American people want us to do. Only the folks here in Washington have a hard time being responsible with taxpayers' money."
Barletta's two Senate colleagues, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, both voted against the House bill later Friday -- Toomey because it spends too much, his spokesman told a local blog.
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