Senator Thune Says ‘No’ to Disaster Assistance for SD Flood Victims

In the aftermath of devastating floods in Waubay and across the Missouri River Valley, Senator John Thune voted twice against a measure to extend disaster assistance to their communities.

“Why would Senator Thune stop the federal government from getting disaster aid to hard hit communities across South Dakota?” asked Ben Nesselhuf, Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Nesselhuf pointed to a bill that would provide $6.9 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue recovery and rebuilding projects in disaster areas across America. Amending a non-controversial bill that would renew sanctions on Burma, Democratic Senate leaders have tried to fast-track additional FEMA funding to ensure swift and immediate disaster assistance for devastated communities across America.

Approval of emergency disaster aid has traditionally been a non-controversial and non-partisan affair, but this time Republicans like Senator John Thune are holding up legislation to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund due to budget concerns.

“These are different times,” Thune told Washington reporters. “We have to figure out how to pay for these things.” His opposition came right after House Leader Eric Cantor told reporters that “no one” was holding back disaster relief to extract further spending reductions.

Thune and Senate Republicans effectively killed the bill Monday by voting against closing debate. Senate Democrats reconsidered the bill again Tuesday and narrowly closed debate – again without Senator Thune’s support.

Thune’s opposition to disaster assistance is leaving residents of Waubay, Dakota Dunes, and Pierre shaking their heads. They worry that insufficient FEMA funding could jeopardize recovery projects and flood insurance claims across South Dakota – much like it has stopped efforts to rebuild in Joplin, Missouri, where more than 150 died from tornados in May. Currently, 40 states have over $387 million in disaster recovery projects on hold.

That’s an outcome South Dakotans cannot afford, says Nesselhuf.

“America has always come together to help when natural disasters strike,” Nesselhuf says, “but now that flooding has devastated communities here at home, Senator Thune is leaving flood victims stranded.”

The Senate intends to reach an agreement to complete action on the FEMA funding bill during Thursday’s session.

For more information, please contact Ben Nesselhuf at 605-271-5405 or ben@sddp.org

Background

Thune Votes Against Disaster Assistance
Roll call vote on motion to invoke cloture for H.J.Res.66, failed 53-33. Senator Thune voted against the bill. Senator Johnson supported the bill. Senate Vote #131 in 2011 [primary source: senate.gov]

Thune Votes Against Disaster Assistance – Again!
Roll call vote on motion to proceed to consider cloture, agreed 61-38. Senator Thune voted against the bill. Senator Johnson supported the bill. Senate Vote #132 in 2011 [primary source: senate.gov]

Thune: Disaster Relief Should Be Paid For
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Thursday that the Senate would vote net week on a nearly $6 billion disaster relief aid bill to replenish the coffers of the financially-strapped Federally Emergency Management Agency, which the Nevada Democrat sad was ‘flat broke.’ … But concerns about rising deficits have some Republicans changing their tune. ‘These are different times. We have got to figure out how to pay for these things,’ Sen. John Thune, R-SD, told reporters.” [FoxNews, 9.8.11]

Cantor: “No one” is holding any money hostage
Cantor claimed at the American Action Forum in Washington, DC that “no one” is holding disaster relief hostage: “It’s important to get relief to the people who need it. No one is holding any money hostage.” [Youtube.com, 9.13.11]

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