Sixty-nine Republican lawmakers voted against a $36.5 billion bill for disaster relief, citing concerns about the growing national debt and the lack of reforms for the National Flood Insurance Program.
“I voted to provide more money for emergency hurricane relief a few weeks ago, and I’m happy to provide additional aid for Puerto Rico in the devastating situation they face,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of those 69 House members, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.
“But at some point we have to look for offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget instead of continuing to borrow and add billions more to our $20 trillion debt, and we also need to look for ways to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so that in the future it is more solvent,” Jordan said.
Jordan, a former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, voted no on the package Oct. 12 along with current House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
A document released by the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of GOP lawmakers in the House, detailed the concern conservatives had with voting for the bill.
“Conservatives may be concerned that the bill essentially wipes the slate clean on $16 billion [of] the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt owed to the Treasury’s general fund,” the document read. “Conservatives may also be concerned that despite the fact the NFIP is roughly $25 billion in debt, this bill does not contain any reforms to begin the task of getting the program on solid financial footing.”
The document also noted the $36.5 billion bill was “larger than the administration’s supplemental request of $29.3 billion.”
Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said he voted against the bill because it was an inappropriate use of funding.
“I support aid for Puerto Rico,” Duffy said in a statement to The Daily Signal. “But sadly, the recent bill was not just direct relief to the island. It included $16 billion in debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program without any reforms to the program.”
The Republican Study Committee also laid out several other concerns, including the fact the bill increases the deficit and was “expected to be considered as a suspension bill, and accordingly members will not be able to offer amendments.”
In an op-ed published Oct. 11, the committee’s Walker wrote, “Ideally, the government should run a surplus each year and put the extra money into a rainy-day fund.” He added:
Congress should plan for worst-case scenarios to avoid last-minute scrambling. Governing by crisis is irresponsible, especially considering the national debt is already at $20 trillion. As then-Rep. Mike Pence said after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005: ‘Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt.’
The House members who voted against the bill are listed here.
A vote on the bill in the Senate is expected this week.