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Posted by Speaker Boehner’s Press Office on September 02, 2011

Many Americans are struggling to cope with Hurricane Irene, the earthquake on the East Coast, and other natural disasters.  They deserve our help, not political games at their expense.  But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from putting politics before the needs of families and small businesses impacted by these natural disasters by falsely claiming that Republicans are “holding emergency funds hostage.”  The fact is the Republican-led House has passed legislation to provide additional funding to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund; the Democrat-controlled Senate has not yet acted on this or any bill to do so.

And Republicans have made clear that Americans affected by these disasters will certainly get what they need from their federal government:

  • On a tour of earthquake damage in his Virginia district, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) made clear that Congress will find the monies to assist victims in Mineral, Virginia.
  • House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) made clear the House has done its job to boost FEMA’s resources for ongoing recovery and future disasters.

The Republican-led House has already passed – with Democrat support – another billion dollars in emergency disaster relief in a fiscally-responsible way. Senate Democrats have thus far failed to act.  Here’s the details:

  • The House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill by voice vote that provided an additional $1 billion in emergency funds to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund for fiscal year 2011. The spending was offset by a reduction in the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.
  • The full House of Representatives passed the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which includes additional money to replenish the FEMA disaster fund, on June 2nd. The Senate has thus far failed to act on that legislation.

Helping Americans impacted by natural disasters in a fiscally-responsible way is neither new nor novel.  Even former President Bill Clinton did it.  For example:

  • In May of 1999, Congress and President Clinton enacted legislation that included emergency spending for farm disasters and “unmet” disaster needs from prior natural disasters and $2 billion in offsets.
  • In May of 1998, Congress and President Clinton enacted legislation that included disaster relief for tornadoes, flooding, and ice storms and $2.5 billion in offsets.
  • In June of 1997, Congress and President Clinton offset disaster relief for the flooding in the Red River of the North, Minnesota River and tributaries.
  • In July of 1995, Congress and President Clinton offset emergency funds for disaster assistance including the recovery from the Oklahoma City Federal building bombing.

When disasters and emergencies happen, Americans expect their government to respond appropriately and treat them as national priorities.  They also expect their government to spend their dollars wisely, and to make efforts to prioritize and save when possible.  Our focus should be on helping victims of these tragedies get the money they need, not on attempting to exploit them for partisan gain.  Congress should come together, support efforts to help provide disaster assistance, and do so in a way that best serves all taxpayers and families.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the hurricane, flooding, and other disasters.