Pryor puts hold on all Treasury nominees

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) announced Wednesday he is putting a hold on all Treasury Department nominees until the administration backs down in a dispute over Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

The confrontational maneuver is rare for Pryor, a low-key lawmaker who usually pursues consensus and eschews solitary floor crusades.

But Pryor has thrown down the gauntlet over tens of thousands of dollars in flood relief funds that FEMA and the Treasury Department have tried to collect from families in his home state.

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FEMA has asked the Guglielmana family in Mountain View, Ark., to repay $27,000 in flood relief it received in error a few years ago. With fines and interest, the federal bill has accrued to $37,000, according to Pryor.

“The Guglielmanas did absolutely everything by the book, they followed all of FEMA’s direction, they did it exactly picture perfect,” Pryor said. “Then three years later, they get a notice in the mail and FEMA says, 'Oh, we messed up. We shouldn’t have given you that money because of some technical reason.'

“They worked a great hardship on this family,” Pryor said.

FEMA recently referred the job of debt-collection to Treasury.

"Sec. Geithner learned of this situation yesterday, and Treasury has suspended any action on the case until we can obtain more information," Treasury spokesman Matt Anderson said.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported FEMA sent similar “Notice of Debt” letters to 34 other Arkansas households asking for more than $200,000 in repayments.

“I am putting Treasury on notice that I’m going to hold all of their nominees until we sit down and work through this and hopefully get a good, fair result for this one family in Arkansas,” Pryor said of the Guglielmanas.

This story was updated at 10:00 p.m.