Mother Nature doesn’t check a state’s political tendencies before a natural disaster strikes. Congress shouldn’t, either.
Though Nebraska has received roughly $100 million in relief funds after record flooding and a historic blizzard in March, a bill appropriating additional money remains tied up amid political squabbling in Washington. Its passage remains far from certain.
Just as Nebraskans were lauded for their community spirit and willingness to assist each other during such trying times, elected officials must set aside their differences to help their fellow Americans – including those in the Cornhusker State – in the trying months and years ahead.
Nearly two months after rivers crested, many homes, business and farms are still underwater. Countless more were wrecked by ice chunks and floodwaters that have since receded. Our washed-away roads and bridges haven’t been rebuilt, and the state’s leading industry – agriculture – faces a dismal year amid crop and livestock destruction.
Total losses are projected to exceed $1.5 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in our state’s history. Sadly, that devastation doesn’t seem to matter to far too many on Capitol Hill.
The Senate has yet to vote on the House bill, which passed 257-150 last week and includes an amendment championed by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, but its fate has been overshadowed by President Donald Trump’s call to Republicans to kill the measure over increased funding House Democrats included for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
Even disaster aid has been politicized in recent years. What a sad condemnation of our government.
All three Republicans in Nebraska’s House delegation were among the 34 in the GOP to break party ranks to support the measure. Good for them. They displayed the common sense too often lacking in a hyper-partisan Washington, placing their constituents’ needs over their party’s wants.
Rep. Adrian Smith said it best on the House floor: “I realize this bill is not perfect, and there are a number of issues I hope we can address moving forward. … Nebraskans need assistance. Considering this bill moves us closer to providing them relief, and for that reason I support it.”
This bill’s political concessions are immaterial. What matters most is helping our fellow Americans, including thousands in Nebraska at this moment, in their time of greatest need.
Sen. Deb Fischer deserves praise for securing $25 million from the Federal Highway Administration to expedite critical repairs. She and Sen. Ben Sasse must follow the lead of their House colleagues, vote to approve this measure and marshal enough support among Midwestern and Republican senators to ensure its passage.
Nebraska needs help recovering. It does not need to be a political pawn.
Disaster relief is not a zero-sum game. Red and blue states alike suffer from these catastrophes – and must help each other rebuild.
—Journal Star editorial board