Politics of Poverty

One-two punch

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A Republican amendment to the House FY12 Department of Homeland Security spending bill ties the hands of federal officials in working to prepare for extreme weather. Thankfully, the Senate can refuse to accept this language.

Last week, I wrote about the flurry of deadly extreme weather events happening in the US lately and the serious impact such events are having on socially vulnerable communities, especially in the southeastern states. It just so happens that in addition to all of these storms, floods, and droughts, hurricane season officially kicked-off on Wednesday (June 1) with predictions that this will be an above average year for hurricane activity. No rest for the weary, as they say.

But while families across the country are coping with such devastation, the Republican leadership in the House just delivered a one-two punch, by tying the hands of federal officials in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) working to prepare for increasingly extreme weather.

On Thursday, the House approved the fiscal 2012 DHS spending bill that included an amendment, introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), prohibiting DHS from engaging in some of the very activities that will help to protect families from future disasters. The provision will prevent DHS from participating in a coordination process with other federal agencies working to prepare our country for the increase in extreme weather disasters that a changing climate is already bringing. DHS wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force that I wrote about several months ago when Senator Barrasso inaccurately characterized its mission.

Do we really want to tie the hands of the federal agency tasked with keeping our nation safe from disasters? What is more important to voters, the politics of climate change or the safety of our families? Basic preparation for disasters is the best and most cost effective way to keep Americans safe from harm and prevent the most costly impacts on our communities and our federal budget.

Thankfully, the Senate can stop this posturing that endangers American lives. It should reject any similar amendments, and when the House and Senate convene in a conference committee to reconcile their DHS appropriations bills, the Senate should stand firm and refuse to accept this language.

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