Reid to move stand-alone disaster bill, dares Republicans to vote against it

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Wednesday he would soon move a $6 billion relief bill to pay for damages caused by Hurricane Irene and other disasters.

“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can and we’re going to do that. I’m going to bring a free-standing bill and we’re going to have a chance to vote on it,” Reid told reporters.

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Reid noted that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said the cost of disaster relief should be offset by cuts to other parts of the federal budget. But he predicted that many Republicans would not support delaying a disaster-relief bill over a fight over spending cuts.

Reid argued that the cost of the U.S. military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been paid for by offsetting spending cuts or tax increases.

“I hope my Republican colleagues have put politics aside and work with us to get relief to the American people who need it now,” Reid said.


The Democratic leader said in addition to the damage caused by Irene there are other emergencies that must be addressed. He pointed out that Tropical Storm Lee has dropped up to 20 inches of rain in some parts of the country and wildfires have destroyed nearly 1,500 homes in Texas.

Reid said he would take a $6 billion disaster-relief fund out of the homeland security appropriations bill and move it on its own.

“I’ll take that out and have a free-standing bill,” he said.

“On the Mississippi River we have 3 million acres of farmland — not 3,000, not 300,000 — 3 million acres that are covered with water,” Reid said.

Cantor, who earlier in the day had walked back his controversial comments and said the House would not "hold up" disaster relief, elaborated on this position in responding to Reid's proposal.

“The House stands ready to provide any immediate funding needed by those coping with the recent earthquake in Virginia, Hurricane Irene, the tornados in Joplin, the fires and droughts in Texas and other disasters.  The House will act on a request for such disaster assistance as soon as it is made by President Obama," Cantor said in a release.

Cantor also Reid "to provide members of the House with the details of his request and a breakdown of what immediate funding is needed for each of the specific disaster areas listed above, so that the House can appropriately act on any legislation passed by the Senate."

This story was updated at 5:53 p.m.