A package of disaster relief funding worth $7 billion was blocked from coming up for a vote by Senate Republicans on Monday, drawing sharp condemnation from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who lambasted the conservative party for abandoning Americans in need.
“Last night, Democrats tried to move forward on a measure that would have granted the Federal Emergency Management Agency additional funding to help communities devastated by natural disasters,” Sen. Reid said in an advisory.
“This ought to be the least political issue going – whether to reach out a helping hand to our friends and neighbors in their time of need,” he continued. “They have lost friends and loved ones. Their homes, businesses and livelihoods have been destroyed by acts of god. Their communities are under water or reduced to rubble.
“It’s in our power to help them. But last night Republicans overwhelmingly voted to prevent us from coming to their aid. They prevented us from getting disaster aid to American families and businesses that need it now.”
The vote was 53-33, with Republicans uniting against measure that would have brought the aid package to a vote and put a rush on some emergency funds. A 60-vote majority was required to pass it.
“They don’t need help next week or next month,” Reid railed. “They need it now. They need it today.”
He added that because of the increased number of natural disasters this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has just over $300 million left. President Barack Obama has issued disaster declarations in 48 states since the beginning of 2011.
The funds are so low, Reid said, that FEMA has stopped rebuilding the town of Joplin, Missouri, which was practically destroyed by tornadoes earlier this year. It withdrew funding for the Joplin rebuilding in order to provide food and shelter to the victims of Hurricane Irene.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Monday that House Republicans would include a much smaller package of relief funds, attached to a budget request needed to keep the government operating through the end of September.
Cantor has previously tried to withhold disaster funds to force major budget cuts elsewhere, like vehicle fuel efficiency programs, or public funding for light rail projects.
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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