Mick Mulvaney (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
By Mary Orndorff Troyan
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Rep. Mick Mulvaney's proposal to cut $20.4 billion in federal spending to pay for Hurricane Sandy disaster aid will come up for a vote later today in the House.
The South Carolina Republican's amendment would cut 1.63 percent from all federal discretionary programs, including the military. It would not cut money from entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
House lawmakers will vote today on two pieces of disaster aid for victims of the storm that hit the Northeast on Oct. 29. Mulvaney's amendment is designed to offset the first piece, which contains about $17 billion in aid.
Congress typically hasn't required emergency disaster aid to be offset by spending cuts, but conservatives increasingly are demanding that such aid not add to the deficit.
"This is important, no question," Mulvaney said of the proposed aid for Sandy victims on Monday. "But is it important enough to borrow money from China to do it?"
The $17 billion in aid is expected to pass with bipartisan support, but a second proposal containing $33 billion in Sandy aid may face opposition.
The House earlier approved $9.7 billion to help pay flood insurance claims related to Sandy. If today's two aid proposals win approval, House-passed assistance for Sandy victims will total about $60 billion, the same amount requested by the White House.
The Senate will convene next week and is expected to take up whatever the House approves today.
Mulvaney said he's not trying to block disaster assistance by stirring up controversy.
"I happen to be one of the folks who believes emergency relief is one of the proper functions of the federal government," he said. "I've lived through a hurricane myself. I had my office destroyed by a flood. The motive here is as simple as it looks. I just want to find a way to pay for it."
He said he would make the same proposal for emergency military spending, such as the money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars were financed entirely by borrowed money.
"I would simply humbly suggest (that) at some point we have to start doing things differently than we have been for the last 30 years, or else we'd end up pretty much right where we are," Mulvaney said.
The Club for Growth, an influential anti-tax group, urged lawmakers to vote yes on Mulvaney's amendment and said it would include the vote on its annual scorecard rating members of Congress.
Mulvaney's amendment is one of 13 up for consideration today on the Sandy aid. Another of his amendments was not cleared to come up for a vote. That proposal was to offset the disaster aid with $18 billion in cuts to the transit subsidy for federal workers, agriculture subsidies for farmers, and the Trouble Asset Relief Program.
Another South Carolina Republican, Rep. Jeff Duncan, has proposed cutting $1 million in Sandy disaster aid slated for the Legal Services Corporation. The money, part of the proposal containing $33 billion in aid, would be used to provide mobile resources and technology for the legal aid organization to reach hurricane victims in New York, New Jersey and other northeastern states hit by Sandy.