House GOP Eyes Cuts To Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

HOUSE GOP EYES CUTS TO PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER…. On Twitter this morning, Matt Yglesias noted that House Republicans proposed slashing funding for tsunami monitoring and warnings. Almost immediately, Matt faced quite a bit of pushback from those arguing it’s inappropriate to bring this up in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

For what it’s worth, I think Matt is raising a fair point. Blaming Republicans for the disaster or its effects would obviously be crazy, but that’s not the argument here. Rather, there’s a proposal pending in Congress that has renewed relevance this morning, and it’s not unreasonable to connect its importance with developments in the Pacific.

Honolulu’s Star-Advertiser ran a report a few weeks ago that has a salience now that it might have lacked when first published.

The union representing National Weather Service workers says budget cuts proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives could jeopardize public safety and increase the severity of disaster losses in Hawaii.

“People could die. … It could be serious,” said Barry Hirshorn, Pacific region chairman of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

Hirshorn said that if a continuing resolution proposed by the U.S. House is enacted — triggering a 28 percent budget cut in the second half of the fiscal year — Weather Service employees as well as those at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center could face furloughs and rolling closures.

“It would impact our ability to issue warnings,” he said.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) said the GOP’s proposed cuts would “drastically” reduce the ability of officials to “alert our communities about imminent, dangerous events.”

The National Weather Service’s union added in a statement, “In the next hurricane, flood, tornado or wildfire, lives will be lost and people will ask what went wrong. Congress’ cuts and the devastation to the well-being of our nation’s citizens are dangerously wrong.”

Fortunately, the proposed cuts haven’t been approved — Democrats oppose the GOP plan — but Republicans are still fighting for them.

Is it wrong and/or exploitative to point this out? I don’t think so. There’s an intense budget fight underway in Washington, and critics of the Republicans’ push for brutal domestic cuts have said the GOP plan would cause serious, real-world consequences. That happens to be true. The fact that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center would face furloughs and rolling closures if Republicans have their way matters, and today’s tragedy helps drive home why it matters.

Put it this way: GOP lawmakers want to deliberately undercut tsunami monitoring, based on the notion that this spending is somehow unnecessary. Republicans thought this two weeks ago, one week ago, yesterday, and today. Chances are, they’ll still support these cuts tomorrow, too.

Why should the topic suddenly be off-limits? There’s a tsunami threat in the Pacific, and a tsunami-related proposal pending on Capitol Hill. To make the connection is not to be callous or disrespectful towards human suffering.