Governors To Congress: Stop Playing Politics With Disaster Aid

Gov. Chris Christie

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie joined with the governors of Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina on Friday to urge Congress to set aside politics and pass a bill to fund disaster assistance.

“Federal assistance for the victims of storms and floods should be beyond politics,” the governors said in their joint statement. “Within 10 days of Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed and the President signed over $60 billion in aid for the Gulf Coast. It’s been 28 days since Irene and Lee started battering our states. We urge this Congress to move swiftly to ensure that disaster aid through FEMA and other federal programs is sufficient to start rebuilding now.”

“Our states’ governments and our citizens are doing their part to restore and rebuild. The federal government must also do its part,” they added.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is almost out of money to fund disaster relief efforts and has already suspended longer-term projects to make sure that money for individual aid remained available.

Last week, the Senate approved a bill that would have authorized $6.9 billion for disaster assistance. However, the Republican-controlled House preferred their own plan, a bill that included $3.65 billion in disaster relief spending among other spending authorizations needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30.

The Democrat-controlled Senate voted to table the House bill 59-36 early this morning, with a handful of conservative Republicans joining Democrats in their opposition to the measure.

Democrats don’t believe it authorizes enough money for disaster relief and don’t want to vote for cuts to an Energy Department loan program that promotes the development of energy-efficient vehicles. Conservative Republicans don’t believe the cuts go deep enough.

The House members are on their way back to their districts for a week’s recess, so Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sees little choice but for the Senate to pass the House bill.

“With FEMA expected to run out of disaster funding as soon as Monday, the only path to getting assistance into the hands of American families immediately is for the Senate to approve the House bill,” Boehner said. “This is no time for delay.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly plans to hold another vote on Monday on a version of the bill that would retain funding for the auto industry loan program.

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