Buying Votes with Disaster Relief: Critics Say the Clinton Administration Has Rewritten the Rules to More Than Double the Opportunities to Dole out Federal Funds under His Presidential Emergency Powers. (Reporter's Notebook)
Elvin, John, Insight on the News
A barely noticed tug-of-war over disaster aid featuring two powerful senators opposing an ambitious Cabinet secretary provides a peephole for following one of the most underreported gambits of the Clinton era: the politics of funding federal disaster relief. According to a report in the Washington Times, Sens. Christopher "Kit" Bond, a Missouri Republican, and Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, put Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, Secretary Andrew Cuomo on notice in late March that they were seeking transfer of disaster-relief monies under his control to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
Bond is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on VA-HUD and Independent Agencies, and Mikulski is the ranking Democrat. In question was more than $300 million in emergency disaster-relief funds that Cuomo had been free to dispense under HUD's Community Development Block Grant Program. The money was designated as aid to victims who live in places declared by the president to be disaster areas, but insiders told the Times that Bond and Mikulski feared Cuomo planned to pass the bucks around recklessly "in political favor-type projects."
If Cuomo were to do that, he would be following what critics say is a pattern in the Clinton administration -- hardly original as a political gambit but certainly more in evidence under Clinton. (In his first year in office he set a new high mark in declaring 58 disasters, and he went on to set record after record.)
The senators notified Cuomo by letter of pending "supplemental" legislation giving FEMA sole responsibility for "identifying unmet disaster needs and for determining the appropriate allocation and award of these funds...." In other words, they were putting Cuomo out of the disaster-aid business. A copy of the letter -- Hill watchers deemed it somewhat unusual due to Democrat Mikulski's participation -- was provided to Insight.
Bond's part in attempting to cut Cuomo down to size, a …
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Publication information: Article title: Buying Votes with Disaster Relief: Critics Say the Clinton Administration Has Rewritten the Rules to More Than Double the Opportunities to Dole out Federal Funds under His Presidential Emergency Powers. (Reporter's Notebook). Contributors: Elvin, John - Author. Magazine title: Insight on the News. Volume: 15. Issue: 18 Publication date: May 17, 1999. Page number: 31+. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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