Senators Decry Lack of Action on Disaster Aid for Suffering States
Friday, April 12th, 2019
U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., joined Senate colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in expressing disappointment in Congress’ failure to deliver critical disaster aid to their states to assist in recovery efforts from natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. It has been six months since Georgia and Florida took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael.
The senators have worked to negotiate in good faith since 2018 on a bipartisan disaster relief package to provide funding across the continental United States as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands for regions that have experienced droughts, flooding, hurricanes, storms, volcanoes, wildfires and other natural disasters. Many of these states, including Georgia, have not received the federal disaster assistance they were promised months ago. Other states would see a down payment on disasters that have occurred more recently, such as in the Midwest where flooding is ongoing, and in Alabama and Georgia where tornadoes devastated lives and communities earlier this year.
Historically, the federal government has stepped in to help victims recovering from natural disasters, and the same action is overdue and badly needed for these affected states. Despite months of negotiations, efforts to advance funding have stalled over partisan disagreements.
“This lack of funding has put Georgia farmers at the breaking point. It is a shame that politics has again gotten in the way of aid for the people of our states who are in desperate need and for farmers who put food on our tables,” said Isakson. “I am extremely disappointed that Congress will be leaving for a two-week state work period without a resolution and much-needed funding on the way for our states, which have already been pressed to cover disaster recovery expenses beyond what they can afford. We’ve asked Democrats to help the residents of our states. This is a disaster bill, and it’s not about politics, it’s about getting all Americans the help they need. I’m eager to work to get it done so farmers can get loans and get back to work.”
“Democrats ought to be ashamed of themselves for holding hostage farmers in the Southeast, fire victims in California, earthquake victims in Alaska, and flood victims in the upper Midwest,” said Perdue. “This is yet another example of Democrat obstructionism. Last weekend, Senate Republican appropriators made another fair offer, but Democrats outright rejected it. President Trump and Senate Republicans have been more than reasonable in dealing with Democrats’ requests throughout this process. Previous disaster relief packages were not held up like this. Farmers in Georgia and across the country are missing planting season right now because Democrats have been unwilling to negotiate. Time is of the essence, and we must get this disaster relief done immediately, so those who have lost everything can rest assured that help is on the way.”
“Families across the country are still reeling from devastating natural disasters. It is beyond unfortunate that Democrats in Congress continue to block additional relief,” said McConnell. “The Senate has had ample opportunity to approve an aid package to help affected communities all across the country -- from the Southeast to the Midwest to the West Coast to Puerto Rico. But Democrats preferred to pick a political fight with President Trump instead. A number of my colleagues, particularly Senators Isakson, Perdue, Ernst, Rubio, Scott, Sullivan, and Tillis, have been stalwart champions for their states despite the partisan obstruction. We won’t stop working until we get this job done.”
“Historic flooding has devastated farms, destroyed homes, and damaged vital infrastructure systems in Missouri,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “I’m disappointed Senate Democrats have stood in the way of getting much-needed resources to flood impacted areas. We need to get this aid package to the president’s desk. With damage assessments still ongoing, we must also be ready to move forward on any additional assistance that will be needed to help communities recover.”
“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Democrats are choosing to prevent us from passing much-needed disaster relief,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “It has been six months since Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, inflicting catastrophic damage and flooding. Too many families are still waiting on help to rebuild their homes, small businesses are working overtime to meet another tourist season, and our military bases are in desperate need of repairs to maintain readiness. These delay tactics have to end, and the Senate must take up the disaster relief bill immediately upon its return.”
“Nebraskans are suffering after being hit by blizzards and severe flooding. It’s extremely upsetting that Senate Democrats are holding Nebraska’s relief funds hostage over their demand for additional resources for Puerto Rico, which already has received $41 billion in approved funds,” said Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb. “People in my state are traumatized, and we need to get a funding bill that includes Nebraska passed now. I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides to do so.”
“Iowa farmers are under water, literally and financially, due to the floods that have ravaged portions of the state,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “It is the responsibility of Congress to step up during times of crisis and help out our fellow Americans. But rather than come to the aid of disaster victims in Iowa and throughout the country, congressional Democrats are playing politics. Iowans who need help to put their lives back together will certainly remember this as the same Democrat senators who voted ‘no’ ask for their vote in 2020.”
“Although more will be needed in the future, this package would have expedited critical aid for Missourians whose homes, crops, and livestock have been destroyed by catastrophic flooding,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “It’s shameful that Democrats would hold hostage aid to farmers and ranchers in order to settle political scores. This is Washington at its worst.”
“After the 7.1 earthquake shook Alaska and thousands of aftershocks continued to shake Alaskans, our constituents came together to support their neighbors, strangers and each other – just as Americans in other states and territories have pulled together in the face of hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. They didn’t take a break or look to leverage each other. They just worked together to respond,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “I am disappointed we can’t follow their example and are instead looking to adjourn rather than rolling up our sleeves and compromising to get this disaster supplemental bill done for our fellow Americans.”
“Playing politics with disaster funding may score Senate Democrats points with their far-left base for ‘resisting’ the president, but it comes at the expense of real people and communities in Florida,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “It’s been six months since Hurricane Michael struck Florida’s Panhandle, and we’re up against a very real deadline to deliver much-needed resources. Inaction and obstruction are inexcusable, and I’m ready to work with any of my Democratic colleagues who are willing to set politics aside to do their jobs.”
“The political hackery from Senate Democrats is dumb and it needs to end now,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. “We’re still recovering from the biggest natural disaster in our state’s history. Nebraskans rolled up their sleeves and went to work, but Congress is playing typical partisan politics. This is shameful.”
“It’s frustrating that it has taken so long to secure this critical disaster relief for communities as they try to rebuild,” said Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. “Families in the Florida panhandle and in Puerto Rico are suffering, and Congress needs to act. I’m working with Republicans and Democrats to get this done. We can’t wait any longer.”
“Alaskans are a tough, resilient, and caring people,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “Within hours of the last November’s earthquake, the response of our local Emergency Response personnel, Alaska Department of Transportation and countless others that were out inspecting and repairing infrastructure within hours was phenomenal. However, there’s still much rebuilding that needs to be done to make Alaskans whole, and it’s unfortunate that a bipartisan relief package could not be reached this week – which would have provided much needed disaster funding to states like Alaska that seek to further that rebuilding process in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.”
“Since before Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, I’ve been working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to secure federal relief to help our communities recover from the historic flooding damage,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. “While we were successful in providing an initial down payment for North Carolina, many families, farmers, and our military communities still need more federal assistance and time is of the essence. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer needs to stop the partisan political posturing so we can reach a deal. North Carolinians have already waited long enough for the federal resources they need to recover and rebuild.”
Isakson and Perdue personally visited parts of Georgia devastated by Hurricane Michael in October with Vice President Mike Pence and pushed for immediate federal funding. After funding was not obtained by the end of 2018, Isakson and Perdue twice introduced disaster relief amendments to legislative vehicles under consideration by the Senate. Isakson and Perdue then introduced a $13.6 billion disaster relief package with the backing of President Donald Trump after prior funding attempts were removed from other supplemental spending packages. Isakson and Perdue have repeatedly gone down to the Senate floor to impress upon their colleagues the urgent need for disaster aid funding.
On April 1, the Senate took votes on two amendments that would have provided funding for Georgia and other disasters, and both pieces of legislation failed to receive the necessary 60 votes to move forward.