Noting that the natural disasters have come “fast and furious” this summer, causing many Americans to suffer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., today announced that he will propose a free-standing bill that would provide $6 billion in relief funds.
“I don’t see how we — this great nation we have — can stand on the sidelines while our people are suffering. We should get relief to people when they need it,” Reid said, mentioning the damage in Joplin, Mo., the effects of hurricanes Irene and Lee and the recent earthquake that damaged the Washington monument in D.C.
The money for the bill would come from the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Reid said.
“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can,” he said. “And we’re going to do that.”
Reid took a swipe at some of his Republican colleagues, most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who early on said that any relief funds needed to be offset by cuts to other parts of the federal budget.
“Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to — I was going to say something that was vulgar, and I’m not going to do that — are trying to cater to the Tea Party by holding up relief efforts. For example, Rep. Cantor suggested that we should hold up disaster relief to meet the Tea Party’s demands. Fortunately, all Republicans don’t agree.”
Cantor, who last month insisted that any new money for federal disaster relief be offset by spending cuts, issued a written statement this afternoon regarding Reid’s stand-alone disaster assistance bill.
Cantor said he’s waiting for a specific request from President Obama and is awaiting details of Reid’s request.
“The House will act on a request for such disaster assistance as soon as it is made by President Obama,” Cantor said, “Though details remain vague, it is being reported that Majority Leader Reid plans to move an unprecedented stand-alone measure that includes up to $7 billion in FEMA disaster funds for next year in the coming weeks. I would ask Leader Reid to provide members of the House with the details of his request and a breakdown of what immediate funding is needed for each of the specific disaster areas listed above, so that the House can appropriately act on any legislation passed by the Senate.”
Earlier today, during his Pen & Pad briefing, Cantor pushed back against some media reports that he is politicizing the funding and holding it hostage.
“Unequivocally, I am for sure making people get their money and not having to wait. I would like to say also that some of the reporting done, maybe by you in this room and others has been inaccurate. I have never, never said that I’m holding anything hostage or would be for playing politics with this,” Cantor told reporters. “It is inaccurate and I think it is irresponsible on part of those who have written that. Again, I went home immediately when the first disaster hit.”