As the Senate voted earlier this morning to table the House-passed continuing resolution, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor amped up the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to vote on the House-passed measure before FEMA runs out of money.
Boehner said that the demand for disaster relief is still urgent from families struggling to rebuild as FEMA runs out of money and Reid should reconsider his opposition and quickly send the CR to the president.
“Last night the House passed a common sense measure that would keep the government open and provide immediate disaster relief to refill the FEMA coffers, and while we passed a responsible bill, it’s time for the Senate to move the House-passed bill,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “This bill was put together in a bipartisan way with House and Senate leaders and just because someone decided to change their mind and walk away from an understanding about how we were going to proceed certainly does not make it right.”
Boehner said that the offsets to pay for the extra money in the House-passed bill, which provides a $1 billion boost up-front for FEMA and $2.6 billion for FY2012, “really is the most responsible thing to do” and he warned Reid that “any delay that occurs because of inaction in the Senate will only imperil needed disaster relief for these thousands of families all across our country.”
Boehner said he spoke with Reid this morning about the impasse, but “there wasn’t much progress made.”
Cantor, R-Va., said since the House has acted to provide the disaster relief, it’s his intention to dismiss lawmakers in the lower chamber to leave Washington for a week-long recess for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
“There’s no brinksmanship. Harry Reid is holding a bill up with full funding of what is needed right now for no reason, no reason but for politics,” Cantor said. “People need the money. The money’s in the bill. The emergency disaster request from the president is funded, and then some, times two, and so there’s no reason that Harry Reid is holding this up other than politics. Let’s get on with it, get the people their money.”
As for the possibility that Reid could bring a clean CR without disaster relief attached, Cantor said that would only lead to FEMA running out of money and put the onus on Reid to cave.
“Harry Reid is now talking about perhaps bringing up a clean CR without disaster relief funding. If that happens, FEMA will run out of money, and it will be on Harry Reid’s shoulders because he won’t act,” Cantor said. “The bill is there in front of him, the Senate should take the bill up and get the people who need the disaster relief the relief that they need.”
Joining Cantor and Boehner at the news conference were two freshmen from Pennsylvania whose districts were impacted by the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
“When disaster his anywhere on this world, the United States is the first to come to help, and now disaster has struck Americans. On Sunday night, we stop helping these people,” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., said. “I’m going to ask everyone, everyone, to please help. They can’t wait five days. As we speak right now, as we are here in this beautiful building, the people back home are running generators; they have boots on up to their waist, as they struggle to put their life back together. We need help, and we need it now.”
“This is unconscionable what Mr. Reid is attempting to do, playing politics at a time when people in my district and Mr. Barletta’s district, and other districts up and down the east coast, have nothing,” Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., said. “These people have nothing. The federal government has a responsibility to protect its citizens from terrorists and from natural disasters, and the most important issue now is getting the money to the states and the locals.”
Barletta, who had voted against the CR on Wednesday because he said he preferred Reid’s stand-alone disaster relief bill, explained that he flipped because he “promised the people [in his district] that I would get them as much help as I possibly could.”
“I tried, and I did everything that I can. I did speak with Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor about the problems and how we need to get help,” Barletta said. “But when it comes down to the choice of shutting our government down and cutting off the funding, both Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor assured me that the folks back home in northeastern Pennsylvania will get the assistance that they need, that we will not let them down, they will have what they need to put their life together.”
As Cantor walked back to his office, he would not rule out whether he’d call the House back into session next week if the Senate continues to play hardball.
“I’m assuming this is all political posturing. We’ve got to get serious now, deliver the disaster money that’s needed. Anything coming out of the Senate seems to me to be only for a shutdown of FEMA,” Cantor said. “If we’re back in Washington, it means Harry Reid has shut down FEMA and denied disaster victims their relief.”