Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., called out Senate Democrats for continuing to block federal aid to American disaster victims by tying any such funds to $44 billion in proposed aid to Ukraine.
“Your federal government ought to do its job. Part of its job is to help its citizens in a time of need,” Scott told The Daily Signal in an interview Thursday. “I’m disappointed by an administration that hasn’t stepped up to help, that wants to try to attach help for Americans to Ukraine aid.”
In the wake of Hurricane Idalia, Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation Wednesday called the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act in an effort to separate the proposed $16.5 billion in relief to the communities hit by natural disasters in states such as Hawaii, Florida, California, Illinois, and Ohio from the proposed $44 billion in additional aid to Ukraine.
Ukraine has defended itself since Russia invaded Feb. 24, 2022.
When asked if President Joe Biden and Democrats would consider the Ukrainian aid and U.S. disaster relief in two separate bills on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded that the Biden administration isn’t “going to get into hypotheticals here about decoupling anything at this time.” Jean-Pierre then claimed that both aid packages were “vital, important government programs that need to be funded.”
Biden and Senate Democrats are still blocking the Scott-Rubio measure, continuing to tie federal aid to Americans with foreign aid and other “unrelated spending.”
The Federal Disaster Responsibility Act wouldn’t eliminate additional aid to Ukraine, but would separate the two funding packages into two distinct bills—giving Congress the opportunity to consider the benefits and particulars of each.
Scott told The Daily Signal that requiring the two aid packages to be voted on separately would allow Congress to direct financial assistance to Americans without holding it up during another debate over how America should continue to help Ukraine.
“I think we ought to be focusing on American aid first, before we talk about aid to a foreign country, and that’s No. 1,” Scott said. “It’s a longer conversation to figure out exactly what we do with Ukraine and how. But right now I think we’re going to get this done.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., reaffirmed her commitment to blocking Scott’s bill to separate federal aid to American disaster victims from the administration’s proposal to almost quadruple financial aid to Ukraine.
Scott told The Daily Signal that Duckworth’s tactic of tying funding proposals together is typical of Democrats.
“They’ll put one good thing in the bill with a lot of things that don’t make any sense for the American public. Then when you vote against it, they claim ‘you don’t care about this one good thing!’ Yes, I do. Let’s do a separate vote just for the ‘good thing,’” Scott said, adding:
We’ve got to stop trying to force people to vote for things because there’s one good thing in the bill with other stuff, and they don’t want to get criticized for not voting for the one good thing.
While on the ground in Maui, Hawaii, covering the aftermath of the wildfires that swept the western portion of the island, I was struck by the number of disaster victims who said they felt “on their own,” and “abandoned” by the federal government.
Similar sentiments often are expressed in states such as Illinois and Ohio, where citizens believe that as part of “flyover country,” federal disaster response is more focused on bigger states such as Florida, California, and Texas.
Scott told The Daily Signal that it’s essential for the federal government to support all of its citizens, because that is it’s primary job:
Everybody in the country pays their taxes, and so we ought to represent the whole country. The federal government does have a role in aiding after local disasters, so we ought to make sure that this is true for the entire country—not for just a few big states—but for the entire country.
I’m going to work hard, and I’m going to try to do it on a bipartisan basis, to get this bill passed to make sure we help people in Hawaii and California and Ohio and Illinois and Missouri and Florida—every place that’s impacted by a natural disaster.
Since Scott and Rubio introduced the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act, the legislation has been endorsed by Florida’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, Wilton Simpson, who cited the importance of federal aid not just to those who lost their homes, but to agriculture and other industries crippled by the recent disasters.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has not yet responded to Scott’s call for the Senate to vote on the bill.
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