WASHINGTON, DC – As Congress debates legislation to provide emergency assistance to states suffering damage from Hurricane Irene and other regional disasters, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) today urged his colleagues to put aside partisanship and focus on the people who urgently need federal assistance.
“Recent disasters across the United States, including Hurricane Irene which devastated communities up and down the East Coast, have depleted FEMA’s resources to effectively assist those in need. The last thing Americans need is for Congress to play politics with our disaster recovery efforts,” said Himes. “While it is important to keep federal spending in check, when disaster strikes, this country has always put its people first. I urge my colleagues to come together and approve the disaster assistance that Connecticut and other states desperately need.”
President Obama recently asked Congress to approve over $6 billion in supplemental relief for states affected by Hurricane Irene and other disasters. Legislation currently pending in the House, however, only provides $3.65 billion in assistance to these communities in need -- $2 billion less than FEMA says it needs to help communities fully recover. In addition, the current bill requires that federal disaster assistance be off-set by spending cuts elsewhere, an unprecedented constraint. Specifically, the bill includes cuts to the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, which is currently reviewing 18 loan applications projected to create up to 60,000 jobs. Former President George W. Bush requested supplemental relief funding eight times between 2002 and 2006, and none of these requests were ever offset or controversial.
“In the past, Congress has had no reservations about approving emergency spending for natural disasters,” said Himes. “That some in Congress would suddenly refuse to secure sufficient emergency funding for states reeling from this disaster calls into question the priorities of some in Congress. Demanding spending cuts in exchange for federal disaster assistance – assistance that is desperately needed by people across Connecticut and up and down the East Coast – represents the same type of political posturing and partisan rancor that so many Americans have grown tired of. I strongly urge Congress to move past the partisan gridlock that has defined Washington for too long and approve sufficient assistance for Connecticut and other states affected by this storm.”