White House: Funds for Maui and Fla. to be withheld unless Congress approves more money for Ukraine

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested on Wednesday that much-needed disaster relief for Florida’s hurricane victims and those in Maui who were devastated by the raging wildfire could be withheld unless Congress approves another $24 billion to aid Ukraine’s military.

“[Republican Florida] Sen. Rubio, whose state is recovering from [Hurricane] Idalia, says the $16 billion in additional disaster relief should be decoupled from the additional funding [sic] for Ukraine. Of course, that’s part of their request which seems to be opposed by many Republicans,” a reporter began during Wednesday’s briefing. “Is the administration willing to separate these requests and seek the FEMA disaster aid independently to ensure it gets to the hurricane victims [and] Hawaii wildfire victims as quickly as possible or do you see that these things have to be grouped together for the request?”

“We are not going to get into hypotheticals here about decoupling anything at this time,” Jean-Pierre replied. “What we believe is that these are vital, important government programs that need to be funded, that Congress should act on, that has been done in a bipartisan way, and so that is what we are going to continue to stick to.”

(Video: YouTube)

As the Florida Phoenix reports, “FEMA has projected at least a $4 billion deficit with the disaster relief fund. The Biden administration in August proposed a supplemental package to Congress, including $12 million for disaster relief to pay for recent natural disasters like the fire in Maui and now the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. But in the same spending package, the president sought more than $24 billion in additional funding for Ukraine’s military needs in their battle against Russia.”

Republican Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio are pushing back against the Biden administration.

In an August 29 press release, ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall, Scott called on his colleagues to “immediately vote on a disaster relief package, the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act, that takes care of Florida families and all Americans facing emergencies” when the Senate reconvenes next week.

Scott said he will be “introducing a bill, the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act, that combines the Disaster Relief Fund Replenishment Act, Hurricane Tax Relief Act, Block Grant Assistance Act, and other essential provisions, to make sure that the immediate needs for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund are fully funded and Florida’s military bases, families and growers impacted by disasters have the federal support they need and deserve.”

“Unfortunately, while I’ve spent the months leading up to this storm fighting to make sure the federal government shows up, President Biden and politicians in Washington have been playing games with FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and insisting that this critical domestic aid be tied to foreign aid for Ukraine,” he continued. “We’ve had enough with Washington playing politics and demand that Congress does what’s right for American families, starting with ensuring our federal government has all the resources it needs to show up after disasters, now and in the future.”

On Wednesday, Rubio wrote in a statement regarding Scott’s legislation, “One of the most basic functions of the U.S. Government is, and should continue to be, to help Americans when disasters hit. Sadly, the Biden Administration intentionally withheld a budget request for the Disaster Relief Fund for months after acknowledging a funding shortfall to leverage it in exchange for unrelated spending.”

“Congress must hold the administration accountable for this cynical conduct that has jeopardized disaster response,” he continued, “and must pass this straightforward bill as soon as possible.”

On X, Americans are voicing their fury.


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