This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Poe (R-TX) to H.R. 2892, the bill providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. The Poe Amendment would have increased funding for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund by $32 million and reduced the amount allocated for FEMA Management and Administration by an equal amount.
Rep. Poe represents a district along the Texas Gulf Coast. He began his statement in support of the amendment by referring to a 2005 study that said, for every dollar spent on predisaster mitigation, three to four dollars are saved. He also referenced a Congressional Budget Office report that “confirmed the savings derived from this program. According to these studies, this amendment that I'm offering could save anywhere from $96 million to $128 million in future disaster costs.” Poe argued that “predisaster mitigation is essential in weathering future devastating hurricanes . . . (and) in helping to reduce the cost towards recovery . . . .” He gave as examples of this type of mitigation the retrofitting of buildings against wind and water damage, especially those used as centers for emergency management services, and the moving of properties out of flood plains.
Rep. Price (D-NC), the chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, who was managing H.R. 2892, opposed the amendment. Price based his opposition primarily on the fact that the Congress had been rebuilding FEMA's management and operations capabilities ever since Hurricane Katrina, and the reductions in FEMA management and administration that Poe proposed to pay for the additional mitigation “could send us backwards.” Price noted that he is from a state, North Carolina, in which “predisaster and postdisaster mitigation have been very important and often successful programs.” However, he said that he felt “the funding levels recommended by our committee in recent years have reflected this favorable evaluation.”
Price further argued that the reductions would cut critical FEMA programs, such as the National Hurricane Program, the National Dam Safety Program, national continuity programs, disaster operations and disaster mitigation, and referenced a letter from the International Association of Emergency Managers to support his claim. He also noted that the proposed fiscal year 2010 figure for pre-disaster mitigation was $10 million over the equivalent fiscal year 2009 figure, and that the program had not yet spent $143 million that was previously provided to it. He claimed “there is a good deal of money (for predisaster mitigation) in the pipeline.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 202-230. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and thirty-three Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and twenty-three Democrats and seven Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, no additional fiscal year 2010 money was added to the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund, and no 2010 money was taken from FEMA.