Disaster relief: What can be done better next time
By U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA)
June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season, and as we prepare to face this year’s inevitable natural disasters, many Americans are still waiting to receive federal aid to recover from last season’s devastation.
Disaster relief historically has never been a partisan issue. Unfortunately, it turned into one over the last eight months.
Despite Democrats pushing for poison pill proposals, President Trump was able to break through the gridlock, and the House and Senate found consensus on a bipartisan disaster relief package on May 23.
The Senate passed this compromise relief bill the very same day. Now, this week, the U.S. House of Representatives will send it to the President’s desk.
This package contains $19.1 billion of disaster relief, including $605 million for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program, $300 million for additional Community Development Block Grants for Puerto Rico, $3.2 billion to rebuild military bases like Tyndall Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune, $3.3 billion for flood damage repair, and $3 billion for agriculture losses. Additionally, California will be eligible to receive more than $8 billion in assistance for wildfire recovery.
Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, deserve credit for their diligent work in shepherding this process.
However, the fact that it took 237 days for Congress to pass a disaster relief bill after Hurricane Michael is beyond embarrassing. Self-interested politicians have made a mockery of one of their primary responsibilities.
Other disaster aid bills were not held up like this. Within 10 days of Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed supplemental disaster relief funding. After Hurricane Harvey, it took 15 days. Even after Hurricane Sandy, which sparked substantial debate, Congress passed a supplemental funding bill 74 days later.
Most of the delay was caused by partisan demands from Democrats for additional aid for Puerto Rico following 2017 hurricanes – even though the island is already eligible to receive $91 billion to recover from these storms. That’s three times more funding than Texas was eligible to receive for Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and nearly double what was appropriated for Hurricane Sandy in 2013.
President Trump agreed to support additional aid for Puerto Rico in order to pass a disaster relief bill as soon as possible. However, Democrats and Republicans could not find consensus on the level of funding. There was also a disagreement over border humanitarian funds.
After Sens. Shelby and Leahy finally came to an agreement with the House on May 23, Shelby and I called the president. The president agreed to break the logjam by supporting a clean disaster relief bill.
Within hours of Trump’s decision, the compromise bill passed the Senate 85-8. The House could have passed the bill by unanimous consent the very next day. Instead, it was blocked by three Republicans in a pathetic attempt to grandstand and get their names in national headlines.
The last eight months have been the height of partisan politics. Never again should we allow the American people to fall prey to Washington’s intransigence.
There are three actions Congress should take right now to ensure that the federal government can indeed take care of its people in times of crisis:
Establish a reserve fund. Most families and businesses set aside contingency funds in case of emergency, and Congress should do the same. We should expand eligibility criteria for natural disasters in Congress’ existing relief fund, so we’re prepared when disaster strikes and don’t have to rely on supplemental appropriations bills.
Cut red tape. Federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing & Urban Development are responsible for disbursing disaster relief funds after it’s allocated by Congress. Each agency has to go through an arduous rulemaking process before any funds can be released. This can often take months. We need to streamline the process so communities get relief in a timely manner, while providing sufficient oversight.
Fix the funding process. Our national debt topped $22 trillion this year. That’s a full-blown crisis. Because of Washington’s inability to get its financial house in order, we are losing the ability to do the right thing. Every dime of this relief package is borrowed money. We need to tackle this debt crisis and responsibly fund the federal government on time so we can help the American people when they are counting on us most.
It’s time for both sides of the aisle to come together, learn from the past, and prove to the American people that we have their backs.
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GOP Senators: No Official Travel If Budget Deadlines Aren’t Met
By Susan Crabtree
After President Trump yanked funding for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D., Calif.) Democratic delegation trip to Afghanistan, a trio of GOP senators are pushing a proposal that would bar any congressional travel if Congress can’t meet its budget deadlines.
The bill would also prevent Congress from leaving Washington if lawmakers fail to complete their job of funding the government on time in an effort to fix the broken budget process and avoid future government shutdowns, stop-gap funding extensions, and bloated, last-minute, “omnibus” spending deals.
“We are on day 26 of the longest-ever government shutdown, and yet Congress is about to go home for the weekend, with some members flying out of the country,” Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.), who is pressing the idea, along with Sens. David Perdue (R., Ga.) and Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), said yesterday. “The proposal that we offer today would keep Congress in town until the budget is finally resolved.”
“During a government shutdown, Congress and the White House should experience pain, not the American people,” Lankford added.
Conservative senators had expressed deep concern about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R., Ky.) original plans to let senators leave town next week, when the government shutdown passes the 30-day mark, while the House remains in session and hundreds of thousands of furloughed government workers remain in limbo.
McConnell on Tuesday said the chamber would not leave for next week’s recess unless the government reopened. With so much scrutiny of Congressional travel in recent weeks, conservatives also are uneasy about senators leaving even for this weekend.
Perdue and Lankford were behind a successful effort last year to press McConnell to take a more confrontational approach with Democrats in order to confirm Trump’s nominees and pass spending bills. They successfully persuaded McConnell to delay the August recess by two weeks to press the Senate and recalcitrant Democrats off the campaign trail before the midterms elections and into action approving a raft of nominees.
“Congress should be held to the same standards of people in the real world,” said Perdue. “Washington’s broken funding process has created a dysfunctional cycle of continuing resolutions, last-minute spending deals and government shutdowns. Enough is enough.”
The senators want to tamp down increasingly vitriolic high-stakes budget showdowns and create what they are calling a “politically neutral platform” to fund the government on time every year. There will be “real consequences” for members of Congress if they don’t get their most basic job of funding the government done, Perdue said.
“We should not go home until we have completed our work. Period,” Perdue added.
Congress’s deadline for passing all spending the bill is Oct. 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. However, since 1976, Congress has only funded the government on time four times, the senators point out. Instead of wrapping up the work on time, Congress has relied on temporary funding extensions called “continuing resolutions,” which are wasteful and create uncertainty.
They also lead to impasses: There have been 21 government shutdowns since 1976, costing billions in retroactive pay and lost economic output. The last time Congress funded the government on time was 1996, more than 20 years ago, and it passed a budget resolution only 11 times in the past 20 years.
The broken budget process inevitably leads to wasteful spending as the appropriations process is dragged out and lawmakers infuse it with spending “sweeteners” to cut deals, instead of forcing painful deadlines. The U.S. is nearly $22 trillion in debt, with the budget deficit projected to exceed $1 trillion in the coming years, the senators point out.
Looking at the Department of Defense alone, the reliance on continuing resolutions has forced the Pentagon to ground or underfund dozens of programs, resulting in $4 billion in waste for the Navy since 2011, the senators argue.
Perdue, Ernst, and Lankford aim change the dynamic by requiring lawmakers to stay put if they have not approved a budget by April 15 and passed all appropriations bills by Aug. 1. If Congress misses those two deadlines, it would not be able to adjourn for more than eight hours, no funds would be available for official travel back to their districts or states, or on overseas trips such as the one Pelosi planned and Trump canceled to Afghanistan.
To ensure that members of Congress can’t leave Washington, both the House and Senate would hold two quorum calls—essentially a head-count check-in—per day that would force lawmakers to show up and remain within a close distance to the Capitol.
“This dysfunctional cycle is not the way our government was designed to function or should function,” Ernst said. “If we fail to pass a budget and spending bills, we should stay in town and work together until we get the job done.”
Sen Perdue: No Congressional Recess Until Funding Process Is Done
Atlanta Business Chronicle
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and two of his Senate Republican colleagues have introduced a proposal to prohibit members of Congress from leaving Washington until the federal government is reopened.
Under the plan, if both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have not approved a federal budget by April 15 or passed all 12 annual spending bills by Aug. 1, Congress would not be able to adjourn for more than eight hours and no funds would be available for official travel. To enforce the measure, two quorum calls would be held each day to ensure lawmakers remain in the capital.
“Congress should be held to the same standards of people in the real world,” Perdue said. “Washington’s broken funding process has created a dysfunctional cycle of continuing resolutions, last-minute spending deals and government shutdowns. Enough is enough. … We should not go home until we have completed our work. Period.”
Perdue is being joined in the effort by GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
We’ve put forward a plan to keep the politicians in Washington if they fail to get the job done on time. If the U.S. House and Senate have not passed a budget by April 15 and all 12 funding bills by August 1, then:
- Congress cannot recess for more than eight hours.
- No funds will be available for official work travel.
- Both the House and Senate will have two quorum calls a day to ensure Members of Congress will not leave Washington.
Do you agree? Sign here!
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) joins CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to discuss the government shutdown as it enters its 26th day.
“This whole shutdown is over less than 10% of our total federal spending for the year,” Perdue explained. “We stayed here in August last year and got to 75% of our discretionary budget. As bad as that is, it is the first time in 22 years that even happened.”
“This is a broken process here. People in America ought to be outraged that we’re sitting here four months into this fiscal year.”
“We only have about 60-70 working days left in this fiscal year to get ready for 2020 in terms of the funding. I’m not betting heavily we’ll get funding done for 2020, so we’ll be right back here doing exactly this, unless we change the way we fund the government.”
Read more in RealClearPolitics.
Sen. Perdue pushing overhaul of federal appropriations process
By Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle
November 27, 2018
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and two of his Republican colleagues are calling on Congress to reform the appropriations process to make sure the federal government is funded on time.
Perdue and GOP Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Joni Ernst of Iowa are introducing a plan to create specific deadlines for passing annual budget and appropriations bills. The proposal will be taken up by a bicameral, bipartisan committee formed last February to review the process and recommend changes.
“Washington is locked in a cycle of continuing resolutions and last-minute spending deals,” Perdue said. “To be successful, this joint select committee must create a politically neutral platform with specific milestones for completing funding and impose severe consequences if members of Congress don’t get the job done.”
Lawmakers returned to Washington this week for a two-week lame-duck session needing to reach a funding agreement with the White House by Dec. 7 or face a partial government shutdown. The key sticking point is President Donald Trump’s request for $5 billion for a border wall.
The 16-member Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, which includes Perdue, has until the end of the year to agree on changes to the process and present them to the full Congress for a vote.
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) slammed the Senate’s “unacceptable” short-term continuing resolution (CR) on Tuesday. The CR would prevent President Donald Trump’s potential shutdown threat over partial border wall funding.
The Senate passed the continuing resolution with a vote tally of 93-7. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), David Perdue (R-GA), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to vote against the $854 billion spending bill.
Sen. Perdue chided the CR in a statement on Tuesday, saying:
Here we go again. In typical Washington fashion, Congress has once again fallen short of completing its Constitutional responsibility. We had the opportunity to fully fund the government on time for the first time in 22 years. Congress has used over 180 continuing resolutions instead of getting it all done. We are going to walk past the deadline on September 30th and fall into the same trap. This is unacceptable.
Read more in Breitbart.
Senate funding progress is not a permanent solution
By U.S. Sen. David Perdue
September 19, 2018
In March, President Trump said he would never again sign another last-minute, massive spending bill. In May, a group of 16 Republican senators came together to say we were willing to work nights, weekends, and through the annual August recess to deliver results, specifically on confirmations and funding. This additional time created an opportunity for Congress to fully fund the government on time for the first time in 22 years.
Congress got close, but missed its chance.
Despite some progress, in typical Washington fashion, Congress has again found a way to fall short of fulfilling its constitutional responsibility. There is still time before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, but Congress has thrown in the towel. It has turned to another continuing resolution to keep the lights on until December. This is completely unacceptable.
Amazingly, some senators are patting themselves on the back for partially funding the federal government — but there is no reason to celebrate. In the real world, you are held accountable to complete the job. Working through August was never about spending more time in Washington. It was about confirming as many nominations as possible, due to Democratic obstruction, and funding the government. It’s that simple.
Since the Senate stayed in session this August, we successfully completed 90 percent of the funding bills for the first time in 22 years. This is a huge step forward, but we still didn’t get it all done. The Senate has completed and passed nine of the 12 appropriations bills in three tranches. Both chambers have been working diligently to sort out the differences in conference. The remaining funding is being held up due to controversy over border security.
Meanwhile, congressional leadership decided to roll the unfinished bills into a package tied to defense funding and call it a day until December. This is a total sleight of hand. It is caving to Senate Democrats who are doing everything they can to derail President Trump’s agenda, including funding for border security and the wall.
Another funding failure further exposes the underlying problems with the funding process used by Congress since 1974. It has only fully funded the government four times in the past 44 years. It has locked Washington in a cycle of continuing resolutions and last-minute spending deals. This week marked the 184th time Congress used a continuing resolution. Until politicians have the will to do something about this broken process, these funding lapses will continue.
There is a different way to deliver results. Over the last year, as a member of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, I have worked in a bipartisan, bicameral way with my colleagues to create a politically neutral platform that funds the government on time every year.
To be successful, this new funding process needs to include specific milestones for completing funding and appropriate consequences if Congress fails to meet those markers.
I came to the Senate to help tackle our national debt crisis. While the Senate has made significant progress on funding this year, permanent change will not happen unless we get serious. It will not happen if Congress refuses to hold itself accountable for failure. It will not happen if Congress continues to accept a broken funding process.
The Joint Select Committee is our last chance to fix this problem, but the window is closing. We have to hold ourselves accountable to the same standards of people in the real world and put a politically neutral platform in place that funds the government on time without the use of continuing resolutions or sweeping funding bills after the end of the fiscal year.
With the size of our national debt, we can no longer kick the can down the road, as Congress did again this year.
Read more in Washington Examiner.