Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he would move immediately to bring a standalone disaster-relief-funding bill to the floor, and he accused “some” Republicans of blocking this effort to satisfy the conservative tea party movement.
The Nevada Democrat told reporters during an afternoon news conference that he intended to pull $6 billion in disaster funds out of the fiscal 2012 Homeland Security appropriations bill, which is currently in the markup stage.
“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can,” Reid said. “Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to — I was going to say something that’s vulgar but I’m not going to do that — are trying to cater to the tea party.
“For example, Rep. [Eric] Cantor [R-Va.] suggested we should hold up disaster relief to meet the tea party’s demands,” Reid said of the House Majority Leader. “Fortunately, all Republicans don’t agree. ... I hope my Republican colleagues will put politics aside and work with us.”
Reid appeared to be referencing comments Cantor made suggesting disaster aid should be offset with spending cuts elsewhere. However, spokesmen for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Cantor said they had no idea what Reid was talking about.
In remarks to reporters earlier in the day, Cantor hit back against Democratic accusations that his position would somehow prevent disaster funding from being quickly distributed. And he noted that the recently passed debt limit deal provides a cushion to pay for disasters — an indication that he does not believe relief funding for Hurricane Irene or the August earthquake that hit his Virginia district will need to be offset.
“Unequivocally, I am for sure making people get their money and not having to wait. I would like to say also that some of the reporting done, maybe by you in this room and others has been inaccurate. I have never, never said that I’m holding anything hostage or would be for playing politics with this. It is inaccurate, and I think it is irresponsible on part of those who have written that,” Cantor said. “Don’t tell me that we don’t know disaster, people are hurting and still the conversation at home is, ‘Do you have your power?’ I am for making sure people get their money and that there will be no hold up.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.