Ted Stevens, I'm coming to your state on this one. The minute they could no longer use it as a bargaining chip, Republicans in Congress cut badly needed help for low-income households to heat their homes this winter. The director of CBPP Robert Greenstein called it:
"Even though there is bipartisan support in Congress for providing LIHEAP [Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program] funds, congressional leaders stripped those funds out of the defense bill the minute they could no longer use them to help get ANWR enacted."
While a small piece of the LIHEAP money was attached to Arctic drilling, $2 billion was not. Both were stripped.
The Republican leadership may be delivering payback. They sure lined up to blow smoke over cutting vital assistance just before Christmas. Senator Rick Santorum's office said, "Democrats stripped out the $2 billion in LIHEAP money because it would have been funded by revenues from oil drilling in ANWR." Does this guy have any credibility left?
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)was quoted as saying ANWR drilling was the source of funds for the entire utility assistance. Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the only way Congress could have found extra money was through a new revenue source. What is it called when people who know better make statements that are not true?
A spokesman for Dennis Hastert attacked Senate Democrats for delaying passage of a separate piece of legislation — the budget reconciliation bill that would cut Medicaid, student loans, child support enforcement, and other programs — by procedural means which forces another vote in the House. The Hastert spokesman, Ron Bonjean, said this action would delay the provision of money to help low-income families pay their heating bills. Bogus. The only money for heating assistance contained in the budget reconciliation bill is funding for 2007.
The Republicans blocked LIHEAP from other bills, preferring to use it as a sweetener, first for the budget reconciliation bill then, when that passed the House floor, moving the money to the defense appropriation bill with ANWR. Two weeks ago Bush & Co. rejected attempts to update food stamp benefits to reflect higher heating bills and hence less money for food, claiming the adjustment was unnecessary because more LIHEAP funds were on the way. Sure, George.
Now Congress has left town with no action. Worse, because of the 1% across-the-board cut in discretionary funding, there will actually be LESS MONEY IN THE LIHEAP FUND, PRECISELY WHEN HEATING BILLS ARE SPIKING.
These people are running the country!
See the whole sick thing at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.