Hurricane Michael made landfall on Florida’s Panhandle six months ago, destroying homes, communities, jobs, and the local economy. As Floridians try to piece their lives back together, local and state officials continue to call on Congress to provide overdue disaster funds.
Last week, the United States Senate had the opportunity to answer that call by passing a comprehensive disaster relief package that would bring billions of dollars to Florida’s disaster-stricken communities and around the nation. Democrats sadly said no.
That vote was inexcusable and indefensible.
When asked to explain their vote, the only defense my Democratic colleagues could muster up was that the Senate bill did not do enough for Puerto Rico. I agree that our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico will need additional federal assistance to recover and rebuild, and I will continue to fight for those funds. But it’s shameful to play politics with much-needed aid at the expense of local communities struggling to recover from recent natural disasters. If Democrats were acting in good faith, they would join me in that longer-term rebuilding effort while also voting for the disaster relief package.
Many of my Democratic colleagues are genuinely good people. But the activist base of their party has forced many of them to take radical, left-wing and even socialist positions driven solely by an unhealthy desire to resist the president. For this to be the guiding principle of any opposition party in America is dangerous.
It’s time to call this out for what it is: an intentional strategy to deny President Trump a second term at any cost—including the prolonged suffering of communities devastated by natural disasters around the country—so they can enact a socialist policy agenda.
The results of this cynical strategy? The most vulnerable are discarded as pawns in a politically charged fight for power in Washington, D.C.
Congress should rise above partisan politics and stop politicizing the disaster survivors because of one party’s disdain for the president. This may be an extremely low bar, but right now, my Democratic colleagues are tripping all over it, and themselves, at the expense of real people.
The national media is slowly waking up to what we have known for a long time: conditions on the ground require a continued federal response. Every day my office receives requests for assistance from farmers, ranchers, mayors, county commissions, homeowners, small business owners, and families desperate to regain some normalcy and security.
Just last week, hundreds of families in Bay County who survived Hurricane Michael found out they were at risk of eviction and potential homelessness if FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program expired. Despite the State’s request for a broader extension, the program expired on April 8th for hundreds of families. FEMA made the wrong decision. Every recovery is unique and the level of devastation caused by Hurricane Michael to the Florida Panhandle is unprecedented in many ways. The agency must acknowledge the severe lack of available housing solutions and work with the state to ensure folks in Northwest Florida know the federal government has not forgotten them.
The Democrats’ obstructionism even threatens our national security. Tyndall Air Force Base recently served as the training hub for F-22 Raptor fighter pilots and employed thousands in the Panhandle. Now, it faces a May 1 funding deadline to continue repairs. Vice President Pence vowed to rebuild the base, stating, “President Trump and I are committed to providing the resources necessary to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base so that it can continue to be a vital and critical part of our national defense." However, with the Democrats unified rebuff last week, Tyndall is at risk, and our military and national security will suffer.
I will continue to fight for Hurricane Michael survivors at every turn and it is imperative that Congress send a disaster aid package to the president’s desk as soon as possible.
It is inexcusable that my Democratic colleagues are using Puerto Rico as an excuse to deny much-needed aid to states that were hit by natural disasters. And in so doing, Senate Democrats also blocked $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rican disaster survivors, for whom they claim to be supporting. While they play their political games, the situation on the ground—both in Northwest Florida and in Puerto Rico—will only get worse. They should be ashamed of themselves.