(H.R.2892) On agreeing to the Flake of Arizona amendment, which would have returned $600,000 designated for Emeryville, California to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R. 2892, the bill providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. The Flake Amendment would have returned $600,000 designated in the bill for Emeryville, California back to the general FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation account.
Rep. Flake had been a constant critic of “earmarks”, or legislatively designated projects, such as this one for Emeryville, that are inserted into spending bills at the request of individual Members. He acknowledged that “California is no stranger to floods . . . But there are many other areas of the country that also suffer from flooding . . . (that don’t receive a single earmark in this year's Pre-Disaster Mitigation fund).” He said the reason some cities receive earmarked funding and other do not is “a spoils system. And I would submit that what we have with the Pre-Disaster Mitigation fund is a classic spoils system.”
Rep Flake claimed that grants from the Pre-Disaster Mitigation account “used to be awarded solely on the basis of merit. When we established the Department of Homeland Security, we were told (Congress would not) . . . earmark any funding in this legislation . . . Now there are well over 100 earmarks in the bill.” Flake also argued that, of the $150 million provided for pre-disaster grant program in H.R. 2893, more than $24 million was earmarked, with nearly 40% of the funds designated for districts represented by members of the House Appropriations Committee. He then said “unless Mother Nature knows which districts are represented by appropriators, we've got a problem here (since) 13 percent of this legislative body . . . will take home 40 percent of Pre-Disaster Mitigation spoils.”
Rep. Price (D-NC), the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, who was leading the support for H.R. 2892, opposed the amendment. He claimed that “FEMA has reviewed every mitigation project in this bill. Each project was deemed eligible based on (Homeland Security) requirements . . . and will be used to protect lives and reduce property damages in some of the most hazard-prone areas of the country. There should be no question that this request underwent rigorous scrutiny and meets the test of being aligned with and supporting the missions of the Department of Homeland Security.” Price also argued that “if this amendment were to be adopted . . . Emeryville would not receive funding, nor would the locality even be able to compete for a Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant through FEMA because the amendment would strike any Pre-Disaster Mitigation funding for that locality for the fiscal year 2010.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 110-322. One hundred and seven Republicans and three Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-three Democrats and sixty-nine Republicans voted “nay”. As a result the designation of Emeryville as a recipient of pre-disaster mitigation funds remained in the bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year.