Rep. Steve King not in favor of restoring tsunami funding, warns against “over-reacting”

As ThinkProgress and others have noted, the 2011 budget proposed by House Republicans “” as well as the three-week continuing resolution they just passed “” eliminates critical funding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that will hamper the agency’s ability to track and respond to tsunamis. The agency said the cuts “will take away [our] ability to upgrade tsunami models and will put considerable stress on watchstanders ability to react.”

The cuts were roundly pilloried in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But last week, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) “” a Tea Party favorite and rigid ideologue on budget cuts “” said he still favors the reduction, and dismissed calls to restore the funding because “we often over-react” to natural disasters.  TP has the story and video:

KING: The tsunami warning centers, it’s really “” the timing of that really puts attention on the subject matter. I don’t know that I would go back and look at that. I would ask people to come forward with the facts on this “” how badly do we need them and do the tragic events in Japan give us a different perspective. I would look at it from a different perspective. I don’t know I would at this point know say that I’d be willing to make that change. I think we often over-react to emergencies, especially natural disasters, before we assess the limit of the damage, and particularly with the nuclear part of this.

Then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also defended the cuts, saying “All of us need to be tempered by the fact that we’ve got to stop spending money we don’t have.” This follows a similar pattern of other conservatives trying to ignore the tragic reality of the events in Japan in service of their political goals. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said yesterday that reaction to the nuclear power crisis there is “overblown,” and Bill O’Reilly said the “worldwide media is hyping the nuke situation in Japan a bit too much.”

A TP cross-post.

JR:  E&E News reported on Thursday, “GOP budget cuts could hurt tsunami, weather warning systems — Locke” (subs. req’d):

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke warned House Republicans today that their proposed budget cuts could jeopardize the operations of federal warning systems for storms, hurricanes and tsunamis.

The Republican-authored House appropriations bill, H.R. 1, which would fund the government through the rest of this fiscal year, would cut $454 million, or 16 percent, from 2010 levels from a Commerce Department account that funds weather, satellite and tsunami warning systems and fisheries and ocean research.

“Obviously, we’ll always try to prioritize, and we’ll try to be as efficient as possible,” Locke told the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee. “But you just can’t change the math.”

Locke said that if the tsunami program were kept intact, there would be cuts to other programs, such as hurricane forecasting….

Since a tsunami smashed Indonesia almost six years ago, NOAA has increased the number of detection buoys from six to 39 and expanded the early-warning system that Locke credited for NOAA’s ability to issue a warning about the Japanese tsunami 9 minutes after the earthquake last Friday.

But seven of the 39 buoys are now down for maintenance, Locke said. And the House spending bill puts their repair in doubt, he warned.

“Right now, we’re not even issuing contracts for the maintenance or upgrading of the buoys that are out of commission,” Locke said.

President Obama has requested $8.8 billion for the Commerce Department, which includes NOAA, in his 2012 proposed budget. That’s $822 million more than Congress approved for the agency in fiscal 2010. Much of that money would go toward a weather and environmental satellite program for NOAA’s National Weather Service that has already been delayed because of budget issues.

“There’s a public safety aspect to the Weather Service,” Locke said. “It’s like a police department or fire department of a local community. When you make cutbacks, there will be consequences. You can’t foresee those now, but you know that response times will be down. You’ll have less police officers on the street to respond to reports of crime.”

Locke’s warning comes as some lawmakers are pushing for expanded tsunami-detection systems.

“From what we saw in Japan and what we’ve seen in other parts of the world, it’s no longer a luxury,” New York Democrat Jose Serrano said. “It’s a necessity.”

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20 Responses to Rep. Steve King not in favor of restoring tsunami funding, warns against “over-reacting”

  1. John McCormick says:

    Why only dismantle the US tsunami warning system? Do we really need the Coast Guard? How about TSAs? (I mean how many passengers have we lost in the past year? And, how about that CIA. Gotta stop over-reacting to terrorists. And, we gotta stop spending money we don’t have. And, you aint seen nuthin yet.

    John McCormick

  2. Roddy Campbell says:

    ‘Locke said that if the tsunami program were kept intact, there would be cuts to other programs, such as hurricane forecasting….’

    If that might be correct, which would you US citizens rather have? Better hurricane forecasting/warning, or tsunami warning?

    The principle of not over-reacting in the wake of a disaster is a very sound one pretty much at all times.

  3. catman306 says:

    Not ‘over reacting’ sounds like supporting Business As Usual, which, of course, is his real message.

  4. Roddy Campbell says:

    catman – no. It’s like you and yours not deciding on how well to fortify your house the day after a burglary, at which point 10,000V electrified fencing might seem a good idea.

  5. DaveE says:

    Roddy #4, on the other hand, you might want to think twice about removing your alarm system the day after the burglary, even if it is too expensive and you just can no longer afford it.

  6. Roddy Campbell says:

    DaveE – my analogy was poor, apologies.

    I should have said: ‘It’s like you and yours deciding on how well to fortify your house in reaction to a burglary on the other side of the world.’

    There is something odd about the Japanese earth quake and resultant tsunami, possibly the nuclear issue, possibly that it’s a highly developed country and hence more like us.

    Was there the same reaction to the Sri Lankan tsunami, to the Chilean earthquake, the Chinese earthquake, the Haitian disaster?

    It’s devastating, sure, for them, but to allocate spending to that, in the USA, rather than to something else, because it just happened in Japan, seems weird to me. Even our UK Minister for Climate Change hasn’t suggested more Thames Barriers in response. Why does it happening there mean it is more likely to happen to you?

    Pause, pause.

  7. Bob Doublin says:

    So when an F5 tornado rips through this moron’s congressional district can we just keep repeating “Let’s not overreact to a natural disaster.” over and over?
    How many hundreds, if not thousands of lives have been saved in the ~35 years they’ve had the tornado warning system in place? What percentage of that is federal funding? Let’s save some money cutting that one,huh?
    I think a very real racist aspect to the whole thing is involved and should be seriously investigated. Like they’re trying to punish Hawaii for sending a “half-breed product of miscegenation” to the White House.(With these idiots the sleaziest motives are probably the ones to be seriously considered in ALL cases as the most likely.)

  8. Roddy Campbell says:

    Bob, excuse my Englishness, I’ve never lived in America, but I understood tornados occur reasonably frequently in the US, and therefore defending against them would seem sensible? Ditto hurricanes. I wasn’t clear that tsunamis, or for that matter killer bees, were such a clear and present danger to human life?

    As a UK taxpayer I’d be pretty pissed if someone suggested public safety spending on the basis of the Japanese tsunami. I can think of plenty of UK-proven ways of spending it.

  9. Raul M. says:

    Certainly the Rep.’s should be able to
    show that beyond pollution has reimbursed
    The Fed. Funding related to the gulf of
    pollution disaster. For example, the huge
    Expenditures by the Coast Guard, NOAA,
    and NASA not to mention the lacking tax
    revenues of the year. Rep.,s should be
    Proud to show the good work done to
    protect the interests of the people and the

  10. Zetetic says:

    @ Roddy:
    The problem isn’t that it’s not a matter of choosing between tsunami warnings and hurricane warnings, that is an attempt to frame the debate in a way that is favorable to the Republican/tea party agenda. The reality is that these are the same people that are defending billions per year in oil and coal subsidies and that want to increase military spending by over 15 billion US dollars.

    The fact remains that the weather, hurricane, and tsunami warning systems constitute a very small percentage of the US budget and that cutting them will have little overall impact on the budget, while resulting in increased spending (and death tolls) in the event of such an emergency. You may also be unaware that the Japanese tsunami did in fact hit the USA and cost at least one life and damaged some boats, it probably would have been worse without the early warning.

    If these people were serious about cutting spending they would be eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and cutting the military’s budget (where even a small cut easily adds up to tens of billions of dollars saved. This isn’t about the balancing the budget, it’s about a dogmatic ideology.

  11. Zetetic says:

    Oops! Typo…
    “The problem is that it’s not a matter of choosing between tsunami warnings and hurricane warnings, that is an attempt to frame the debate in a way that is favorable to the Republican/tea party agenda.”

  12. Joan Savage says:

    So, a Senator from the heartland of Iowa wants to cut back on the ability to warn about tsunamis or hurricanes. What should he care? His district is safe from those phenomena.

    King has a statement on his district’s “Agriculture and Energy” that shows where his priorities are:

    The federal corn subsidies distributed in Steve King’s Iowa district in 2009 amounted to $111,022,430.

    That would pay for a lot of weather warning.

  13. Bob Doublin says:

    @8 Hawaii is constantly being hit by tsunamis. This one hit at 3-4am (as opposed to say the1-2pm it was in Britain) and could easily have killed 20 people if there had been no early warning system.My post was fraught with sarcasm about the Repubs not considering Hawaii to be just as valuable to America as the Midwest-which benefits from a heavily subsidized early warning system for tornados.And by the way-not every town in the Midwest is hit every year by a tornado.Given the huge death tolls in Hilo in 1946 and 1960,I think some Hawaiians would find these comments rather heartless since the system has helped immensely in preventing repeats.
    Hawaii,Washington,Oregon,California all were won by Obama in the election so it’s obvious to me that a huge percentage of the motivation behind this is punishment for this on the part of Congressional Republicans.

  14. Robert In New Orleans says:

    If the congressman really wants to save the taxpayers some money he should volunteer his home state of Iowa for the first round of cuts. Iowans don’t need those ugly doppler radar towers and those science based tornado warnings;)

  15. Chris Winter says:

    King’s statement: “I don’t know I would at this point know say that I’d be willing to make that change. I think we often over-react to emergencies, especially natural disasters, before we assess the limit of the damage, and particularly with the nuclear part of this.”

    That says very clearly that he would rather remove the ability of warning about the magnitude of impending disasters. We should wait for the aftermath, and deal with whatever damage happens.

    I guess forewarned is no longer forearmed.

    As for his priorities, I agree with other comments. He’s going after small sums and leaving bigger ones like oil-company subsidies alone.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Roddy Campbell neatly summarises his worldview with his declaration that he is ‘a UK taxpayer’. It’s amazing the obsession of the Right with ‘their’ money. Actually tsunamis can strike any seashore, whether caused by earthquakes or submarine landslides or even the even more catastrophic volcanic island collapses. One such hit Scotland 8000 years ago triggered by submarine landslides in Norway, caused, as I recollect by submarine clathrates melting. If that happened again, soon, as global temperatures rise, the death-toll, without warning systems, could be significant. And, as we know, the US is a potential site for tsunamis, not just in Hawaii, but in Alaska, along the Pacific North-West and perhaps in other regions not yet completely investigated. Of course tsunamis are rare, but they are potentially extremely destructive, and, thus, a worthy cause for expenditure from your and my tax monies.

  17. JPix says:

    We learn from the New Republican Physics (NRP) that ineraction between electromagnetic radiation and the atmosphere is a small fraction of what most scientists believed before, insignificant in fact.

    This of course more than doubles the efficient detection ranges of all kinds of radars and heat-seeking missiles, besides greatly improving the performance of satellite based intelligence gathering systems.

    These new NRP discoveries offer remarkable savings to the taxpayers particularly in the defence budget lines, but also in such areas as air traffic control. So why is the NOAA radars and satellites the only items singled out for savings?

  18. Oakden Wolf says:

    Obviously I’m not the first of many to think what I wrote, nor will I be the last:

    Republican budget summary reprise: more may die, them’s the breaks

  19. Zetetic says:

    The Republican Party’s behavior is easy to understand, as long as you try to look at it from an utterly amoral point of view.

    IMO part of much of their motive is appeasing the Tea Party while hiding evidence of climate change for their corporate masters, and they may just not care about the well-being of the public. But I also suspect that on some level, for some of them at least, they are also making sure that people are kept dependent on their “largess” for survival, by increasing damage from natural disasters. It is an old tactic of tyrants to keep the public from getting to well educated or comfortable. This also helps to make sure that the public is kept from being to “uppity”, while still looking innocent of direct involvement in impoverishing people from the effects of such disasters.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Oakden #18, that should read ‘More may die, that’s the intention’.