The most recent near-shutdown of the federal government that threatened disaster relief funding was a disaster in itself, according to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. A vote Monday night averted the shutdown and assured money would be allocated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Grassley, a Republican, says the whole affair was “mishandled terribly” by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. “He drew a line in the sand that didn’t need to be drawn,” Grassley says. “It caused a lot of anxiety for disaster victims for reasons that were later discredited by FEMA, saying that they had money to get them through the end of the fiscal year.”
There was a funding flip-flop in the midst of the partisan debate. Some politicians said FEMA was down to $114-million and would run out of money as soon as Tuesday, while agency officials later said there was sufficient funding to get through the week, or longer. Grassley says the entire exercise was unnecessary.
“There has been and continues to be widespread support in Congress to fund disaster relief for Americans,” Grassley says. “We’ve had an obligation as an insurer of last resort and we’ve always kept that commitment.” It’s been a brutal year for natural disasters, with declarations in 45 states.
In Iowa, the disaster funding that was threatened included the Missouri River flooding along six western Iowa counties and damage from storms and flash-flooding in Dubuque and Jackson counties in the east. Grassley says disaster victims never should have been placed in the middle of the political bickering.
“If you ever wonder about the word ‘dysfunctional’ about government and Congress, you hear it again and again from Iowans,” Grassley says. “A lot of it comes from the polarizing way that the majority party is running the Senate.” The spending measure that passed the Senate on Monday night is short-term. It only funds the federal government for the first seven weeks of the fiscal year, which starts Saturday.