McConnell on Disaster Funding: This Does Not Need To Be a Difficult or Partisan Decision
‘From coast to coast and beyond, we have Americans rebuilding their communities, their local infrastructure, their livelihoods, and in some cases their own homes. Here in Congress, it is time to finish the good work that our colleagues from Georgia have started and pass legislation to provide a helping hand. I was encouraged last week when ninety Senators took the first step and allowed the full Senate to turn to disaster funding here on the floor.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding supplemental disaster funding legislation:
“For almost a week, the Senate’s been considering an urgent priority: Aid funding for communities across the country that have been ravaged by natural disasters. Like last year’s powerful hurricane season, which carried torrential downpours and gale-force winds across the coasts of Florida and the Carolinas and left families sorting through billions of dollars of damage. The fierce wildfires that consumed millions of acres in California and across the west, damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses in their path. The tornadoes that tore through communities in east Alabama and west Georgia. And the heavy rains and flooding that have impacted parts of my home state of Kentucky.
“As Puerto Rico continues to get back on its feet following Hurricane Maria, an especially urgent concern today is funding for the nutrition assistance program. Hundreds of thousands of residents have already felt the impacts of dwindling food aid on the island. Preventing further serious reductions will take prompt federal action. And even as we speak, communities across the midwest are still underwater, trying to combat the severe floods that have washed away homes and livelihoods.
“From coast to coast and beyond, we have Americans rebuilding their communities, their local infrastructure, their livelihoods, and in some cases their own homes. Here in Congress, it is time to finish the good work that our colleagues from Georgia have started and pass legislation to provide a helping hand. I was encouraged last week when ninety Senators took the first step and allowed the full Senate to turn to disaster funding here on the floor. But it has been unsettling to hear behind the scenes that my Democratic colleagues may now be toying with the idea of opposing Chairman Shelby’s comprehensive substitute amendment.
“This is no time for my colleagues across the aisle to prioritize a political fight with the president ahead of the urgent needs of communities across America. Chairman Shelby has carefully assembled a comprehensive proposal that my Democratic friends ought to jump at the chance to support. It ensures that no affected region would be left behind. That includes $600 million to immediately shore up disaster nutrition assistance for the vulnerable in Puerto Rico.
“And, unlike the underlying House bill, which does not address this year’s disasters, it would provide for a significant down payment on relief and rebuilding in the flood-damaged Midwest. The House bill has nothing for the Midwest flooding. So it’s a non-starter. For that reason, and also because the White House has indicated the president would not support that legislation because of policy decisions made by House Democrats.
“So Chairman Shelby’s amendment is the only game in town. It’s our only sure path to making a law with anywhere near the urgency these Americans deserve. It is the only bill on the table with any provision for the Midwest flooding. And it’s the only bill on the table that could earn a presidential signature in time to deliver urgent relief on the nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico. In my view, this does not need to be a difficult or partisan decision.
“Indeed, I can hardly put it better than my Democratic colleagues explained it themselves, just a few weeks ago. As recently as the end of February, 11 of our Democratic colleagues wrote to all four congressional leaders to insist that this subject could not wait. They said, ‘Providing desperately needed relief to impacted communities should be a bipartisan, bicameral priority and continued inaction is unacceptable.’ They said Congress had to act to fund disaster recovery and rebuilding -- quote-- ‘immediately.’
“Well, this afternoon, my colleagues will have the opportunity to make good on their words and vote to advance Chairman Shelby’s legislation. It’s our way to help all the affected communities -- including the Midwest, which the House bill would leave behind. It’s our path to securing hundreds of millions in nutrition aid for Puerto Rico, and doing so promptly. It’s our shot at exactly the kind of bipartisan action that a number of my Democratic colleagues have been clamoring for. Let’s vote to advance it later today.”
Related Issues: Appropriations, Infrastructure