Senate approves billions in disaster aid
WASHINGTON — The US Senate approved $6.9 billion in disaster relief funds over a yearlong period, a measure that faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
By a 62-37 vote, the Senate approved funds for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help communities cope with natural disasters such as Hurricane Irene, which struck much of the eastern US seaboard in late August. The funds are allocated for fiscal year 2012, which begins October 1.
House Republicans, who intend to spend about half as much on disaster relief, plan to consider such funding as part of a larger government funding bill. The conservative lawmakers also want to see such measures offset by budget cuts.
“It’s time for House Republicans to put Tea Party economics aside and stand on the side of the thousands of communities who need relief now,” said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, whose state of New Jersey was struck by Irene.
The eastern United States has already suffered from heavy rain and flooding from Irene in August and Tropical Storm Lee in September — and the Atlantic hurricane season does not end until November 30.
The region was also struck by a rare earthquake in August that cracked walls, damaged bridges and toppled chimneys.
Separately, officials in Texas have been battling a series of widespread forest fires as the southwestern state endures one of the most severe droughts in its history.