Rooney votes against disaster relief

06-04-19-Hurricane_Michael_damageDamage from last year’s Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.   (Photo: Bret Bostock, Wikimedia Commons)

467 days (1 year, 3 months, 13 days) since Rep. Francis Rooney has met constituents in an open, public, town hall forum

June 4, 2019 by David Silverberg

Updated June 5 with Steube, Gaetz votes and Patronis statement. 

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) joined 57 Republican colleagues yesterday, June 3, in rejecting federal aid for areas hard-hit by last year’s disasters, including the Florida panhandle devastated by Hurricane Michael.

The bill, Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019 (House Resolution 2157) passed by a vote of 354-58.

By contrast, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), joined the 354-member bipartisan majority in passing the $19.1 billion measure. He was joined by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.), a normally staunch, pro-Trump conservative, whose district covers the most affected areas of the panhandle.

The bill provides assistance to people and jurisdictions pounded by Hurricanes Michael and Florence, other storms, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, and wildfires during 2018 and 2019 by providing funding to virtually all the agencies of the federal government.

In a statement on his vote, Rooney explained that he opposed the measure because the bill exceeded the administration’s initial funding request:

“It has become all too common for Congress to use disaster funding to break through spending caps that are in place,” declared the statement. “There are legitimate needs for funding to assist with recovery from horrific natural disasters that affected Florida and other states around the country, however I could not support a bill that is completely fiscally irresponsible.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), whose district includes a large portion of south-central Florida, also voted against the bill for similar reasons. “While I’m glad the panhandle received the funding it desperately needed, I could not in good conscience vote for the Supplemental Appropriation which was filled with outrageous spending and no plan to pay for it,” Steube said in a statement. “I ran for Congress refusing to add to the national debt, and this bill had a high price tag with no offset.”

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s Republican chief financial officer and a native of Panama City, which was hard-hit by Hurricane Michael, was outraged by the nay votes.

“If I was in their district, I’d vote ‘em out,” Patronis told reporters in Tallahassee. “Those individuals that do not realize the harm and suffering that’s happening in Northwest Florida and the recovery that we’re trying to endure right now, for them to put themselves over the better good of the recovery of other citizens in the United States is shameful. Unfortunately, it’s a round world and they’ll probably get what’s coming to them somewhere, somehow.”

The Senate approved the measure by an 85 to 8 vote on May 22, with both of Florida’s Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, voting in favor of it. The bill passed by the House yesterday has now gone to the president for signature. However, in a since-deleted tweet yesterday, Trump erroneously stated that the bill would be going to the Senate.

Trump initially opposed the bill for providing money for Puerto Rico disaster relief and pushed for $4.5 billion for his wall on the southwestern border. However, while he publicly relented on his opposition, during the congressional Memorial Day recess, as lawmakers in the House tried to expedite the measure with a “unanimous consent” agreement, three Republican lawmakers: Reps. Chip Roy (R-21-Texas), Thomas Massie (R-4-Ky.) and John Rose (R-6-Tenn.), refused their consent, meaning that the bill—and the people it would benefit—had to await yesterday’s formal vote.

The bill will provide a wide variety of assistance across federal agencies to aid those harmed by the disasters.

While Southwest Florida is not specifically mentioned in the legislation, the bill appropriates money to combat flood and storm damage, which will likely benefit the region. The US Army Corps of Engineers is appropriated $1 billion “for necessary expenses to prepare for flood, hurricane and other natural disasters and support emergency operations, repairs, and other activities in response to such disasters,” as well as $35 million to investigate means of reducing future flood and storm damage.

Liberty lives in light

©2019 by David Silverberg

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