As Louisiana recovers from flooding, debate over disaster funding heats up

Congressman Fleming (R-LA) says he wants to get the people of Louisiana what they need without going on a spending rampage.
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As the cleanup continues in Louisiana following the horrific flooding, many are wondering how much help the state will need from the federal government. Whenever a disaster strikes, debates over funding come to the forefront, and can get messy.

"We’re going to make sure everyone gets what they need, but we’re not going to go on a rampage here wasting people's money," said Congressman John Fleming (R-LA).

Louisiana, still reeling, and in need of relief. Fleming wants federal funding to help his state recover, but he does not want excessive aid. Critics say Fleming voted down a relief package four years ago in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, so why should he get funding now his state’s time of need?

"They chalked on 33 billion dollars worth of waste," said Fleming of the Sandy funding package. "Money that went to all sorts of things that had nothing to do with Sandy."

Some say the current gridlocked state of Congress is responsible for irrelevant funding in disaster packages. If lawmakers can’t get funding through normal means, they tack it on to a disaster bill that has to get through to save lives.

"That becomes a really attractive place to try to put in other projects, other things, that you’re not going to get a chance to approve in another piece of legislation, because very little else is moving through the legislative process," said Molly Reynolds, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

She says she’s not surprised Republicans have voted down these relief packages, but hopes lawmakers begin to understand that it could be their district in need in the future.

"You know, ‘I need this now, you’ll need it in the future.’ That really is...that really should be enough of a reason to vote for it," said Reynolds.

David Inserra from the Heritage Foundation says Congress wouldn’t need to take this extra step if the federal government stuck to spending money already allocated in a FEMA disaster relief fund. But, he says, it gets overdrawn when states are quick to request federal assistance.

"Were there other disasters that the federal government didn’t need to respond to? Then that money could’ve been saved for a larger disaster like what happened in Louisiana," said Inserra.

It is still unclear whether Louisiana will need an additional funding package from Congress.

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