Rep. Noem ‘frustrated’ with failure of disaster relief billSouth Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House expressed exasperation Thursday at Wednesday night’s failed disaster relief vote.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
South Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House expressed exasperation Thursday at Wednesday night’s failed disaster relief vote.
“I am probably as frustrated as most South Dakotans with the games those in Washington, D.C., are playing,” Noem told reporters. “The bill contained $3.65 billion in disaster relief funding to provide much-needed assistance to people.”
The bill in question would have funded the Federal Emergency Management Agency and allowed FEMA to send federal money to victims of recent hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and this summer’s historic flood along the Missouri River in states including South Dakota. It failed 230-195.
“We came out here to do a job, and we see a lot of politics. If there’s one thing we need to do out here, we need to fix that,” Noem said. “People are struggling right now. I honestly felt that bill we had last night was our best option.”
The bill also would have funded the federal government through Nov. 18 while lawmakers work on passing 12 appropriations bills needed to run government agencies for the 2012 budget year. If some type of stopgap measure is not passed by Sept. 30, the government will shut down. In addition, FEMA officials have said they could run out of money to assist disaster victims by Tuesday.
The measure was opposed by conservative Republicans unhappy with its spending rates, which are in line with levels set by last month’s budget and debt pact with President Barack Obama. That measure provides about 2 percent more money for Cabinet agency budgets than Republicans proposed when passing a nonbinding budget plan in April.
Noem said she believed the measure contained an appropriate amount of spending cuts and “offsets” and that it would not have made “our financial situation worse in this country.”
As one of the House freshman class’ two elected liaisons to Republican leadership, she said she urged her fellow freshmen to join her in voting for the plan: “I said I felt it was the responsible thing to do.”
Noem criticized House Democrats, many of whom first expressed support for various provisions in the failed bill, she said.
“Last week, we had House Democrats say they would support this bill. Then the Senate passed a different version, and they saw the opportunity to divide our caucus. They jumped all over it,” she said. “I thought that was wrong. That’s what people are sick of. That’s what I’m mad about.”
The Senate passed a $6.9 billion standalone disaster relief package last week in a partisan vote.
On Thursday, congressional leaders were preparing another disaster relief plan for a vote. Noem said she hopes Congress can get something passed. However, she declined to say whether she would vote for a bill that did not include spending cuts — like the Senate’s stand-alone measure.
“That’s a tough one for me to decide. I wish I could give you an answer on that,” she said in responding to a reporter’s question. “I’m hoping we will still have the opportunity to (pass disaster relief) without accumulating more debt.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.