Earlier this month, the House passed a $19 billion disaster aid bill that would bring relief to areas of Nebraska that were hit hard by flooding in March.
But the bill has been bogged down in the Senate. Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell said the bill is scheduled to come up for floor debate this week.
The Senate needs to pass the bill as farmers and communities throughout Nebraska and the Midwest need the aid to recover and rebuild after the devastating flooding, which did an estimated $1.5 billion in damage in Nebraska.
Why it has taken this long for the disaster aid to be passed, boggles the mind. But, like most things in Washington, there are always side issues throwing off what should be easy legislation to pass.
And that is what has happened with the disaster aid bill:
n Democrats and President Donald Trump have disagreed over aid to Puerto Rico, which is recovering from hurricane damage.
n The president wanted funding for humanitarian aid and law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Democrats balked at doing.
n Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., sought to add funding for harbor dredging efforts.
n McConnell, himself, is trying to add a provision to the bill that would ensure hemp is eligible for federal crop insurance.
In the past, disaster relief measures usually drew bipartisan support. All representatives, no matter their political views or state they represent, understood helping people who have been struck by a natural disaster. But even that seems to have gotten lost in the partisan warfare that seems to dominate government these days.
Rep Adrian Smith from Nebraska’s 3rd District was one of 34 Republicans who went against his party’s position and voted to approve the disaster aid bill in the House.
In debate in the House, Smith said, “The impact of this storm continues to be felt across our state, particularly by our agricultural producers. In the west, the extreme blizzard conditions compounded an already hard winter, leading to cattle losses. In the east, grain stores were washed away or damaged by the floods and extensive silting of fields has impeded planting as the season is now underway ... Our producers need this relief.”
Smith added that the bill wasn’t perfect, but that the relief was needed now without delay.
Nebraska’s senators, Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, need to take a similar position. The disaster aid bill may not be perfect, but Fischer and Sasse must urge their colleagues to pass the measure so Nebraska can get relief for the most costly natural disaster in the state’s history.