Tag Archives: Senate

A Senate-passed disaster aid bill, covering this year’s historic Midwest floods, finally cleared the U.S. House Monday, after enough Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the bill.

A majority of House Republicans broke ranks with conservatives, giving Democrats the two-thirds majority needed to pass the $19-billion disaster aid bill under rules for expedited action.

Conservatives, three-times during the Memorial Day recess, blocked the unanimous-consent needed to approve the Senate-passed measure that President Trump says he will sign.

They objected to voting on the unpaid-for bill with most members gone during the recess, and Democrats’ refusal to provide administration-requested humanitarian border aid.

Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer pushed back…

The measure includes $3-billion for farm related losses of crops, dairy, on-farm stored crops, prevented planting and more, covering the historic Midwest floods and earlier storms in the Southeast and Puerto Rico, and wildfires in the West.

The legislation was earlier delayed in the Senate over new Puerto Rico hurricane aid, including food stamps.

President Trump argued existing aid was mismanaged, but agreed to the food stamp money, and Republicans added new redevelopment aid, winning enough support from Democrats to pass the bill by a wide margin in the Senate.

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide assistance for presidentially declared disasters, including the March 2019 “bomb cyclone” which struck Nebraska. This vote came after the Senate recently voted in favor of this bill, and will now be sent to the President’s desk.

“I am glad we were able to come together and provide much needed relief to areas of our country, including Nebraska, which have been so devastated by natural disasters. We can now push further ahead with recovery efforts. Thousands of Nebraskans were affected by blizzards, rain, wind, and flooding, and this is another step as we rebuild.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) made the following statement today on the House passage of the disaster assistance package.

“I am pleased that the House has passed this funding bill so that assistance can soon reach the individuals, communities, and military installations, such as Offutt, in need of this relief.  This is great news for Nebraskans and others who have been affected by natural disasters in recent months.  Clearly, much more work and funding is necessary, but this legislation is a meaningful step forward as we continue the flood recovery efforts.”

The final version of the disaster relief bill includes a number of provisions that are of particular importance to Nebraska.  “I worked with my colleagues to add funds to the military operations and maintenance account with the intentionality that as much as $120 million will go to the immediate cleanup and operational needs of Offutt Air Force Base,” Fortenberry said.  “I also helped to provide additional funds for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to restore scarred lands and infrastructure.  This important relief for our nation’s environmental security will reshape eroded stream banks, repair water control structures, fix levees, and restore conservation priorities,” Fortenberry added.  Among other items, the legislation also provides funds for emergency conservation projects on farms, levee repairs, and highway reconstruction.

Fortenberry said, “Nebraskans are resilient, determined, and generous.  This federal assistance will help accelerate the recovery work of communities and individuals and allow Nebraska to remain strong.”

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a bipartisan deal that would provide more than $19 billion in disaster aid funding to parts of the United States hit by hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires, following months of negotiation.

Senators backed the measure, 85-8, just a few hours after the agreement was reached. The House will have to vote on the bill before it’s sent to Trump’s desk. House lawmakers have already left for their recess, but the chamber could still pass it quickly through unanimous consent.

“I totally support it,” Trump said of the legislation at a White House event on Thursday.

Leaving a closed-door Senate Republican lunch earlier in the day, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters that an agreement had been reached.

He said that he had spoken to President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon about the parameters of the deal, which excluded the $4.5 billion in border funding that the White House and the Republicans kept demanding.

The Senate voted on the measure Thursday afternoon before leaving Washington for a weeklong Memorial Day recess. This comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned earlier in the day that the upper chamber would remain in session this week until they passed a disaster aid bill.

According to a breakdown of the bill from Shelby’s office, it provided about $900 million to Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017. That money would go toward nutrition assistance and a community development block grant, both of which were key Democratic priorities.

The bill also included a provision that would require the Trump administration to make almost $9 billion in previously withheld aid available to Puerto Rico, according to a summary of the bill provided by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Funding for Puerto Rico had long been a sticking point in negotiations because Trump was opposed to giving the territory more aid. In April, he falsely claimed on Twitter that “Puerto Rico got 91 billion dollars for the hurricane” when the federal government had only allocated $40 billion for the island’s recovery and most of it hasn’t reached it yet.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-strikes-deal-19-billion-disaster-relief-bill-excludes-border-n1009396?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed a disaster supplemental bill that included funding for Nebraska flood recovery. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who worked with her staff to include the state of Nebraska in the bill, applauded its passage and released the following statement:

“Today the U.S. Senate came together in a bipartisan manner and passed a disaster supplemental bill that includes significant relief for Nebraska.  Our families, ag producers, communities, and military installations affected by the catastrophic flooding need assistance and that’s why I fought hard for our state throughout this process. What we passed today is a critical first step to help Nebraskans rebuild and move forward in a positive direction. I hope the House will follow suit and pass this bill without delay.”

 

Senator Fischer fought to include the following provisions in the Senate-passed disaster bill that will help Nebraska:

Agriculture

  • $3,005,442,000 for crop losses
  • $435 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program in the Natural Resources Conservation Services
  • $558 million for the “Emergency Conservation Program”

 

Economic Development

  • $600 million for the Economic Development Assistance Program

Army Corps of Engineers

  • $1 billion for the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies account in the Corps of Engineers

Defense

  • $670 million for the Air Force Operations and Maintenance in support of disaster relief and recovery
  • $1 billion for Air Force Military Construction
  • $42 million for National Guard Military Construction

Lawmakers reached a bipartisan deal on Thursday for $19 billion in disaster aid that includes funding for Puerto Rico and southern states hit by hurricanes, flood-ravaged Midwestern states, and California areas scorched by fires.

President Donald Trump has agreed to the deal, although lawmakers did not include $4.5 billion sought by the White House and Republicans for humanitarian aid on the U.S. border with Mexico. The Senate is expected to pass the relief package yet today.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote on disaster relief next week, right before the lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day. He’s hopeful that the Senate will vote on legislation that the president is willing to sign.

While the House passed a disaster bill last week, congressional leaders and the White House have been hard at work on a bipartisan bill that can get through both chambers easily. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby says that senators are on the verge of an agreement. Politico says McConnell, Shelby, and Trump all have interests that have been holding up the deal. McConnell is a big supporter of the hemp industry and is looking to make sure crop insurance by 2020 for hemp producers is in the legislation. Shelby wants more money for harbor maintenance while Trump is pushing for more funds to address border security.

Negotiators say the biggest points of contention yet to work through are nearly settled. Both sides have agreed to provide Puerto Rico with hundreds of millions in additional aid, an important point that Democrats had asked for.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced the Agricultural Export Expansion Act (S.1447), legislation that would make it easier for American farmers to sell their goods to Cuba by removing restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to the island nation. 

“These restrictions are arbitrary and serve no purpose other than hurting our farmers and the Cuban people,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. “As U.S. producers across sectors struggle with sluggish markets and Chinese tariffs, it’s time we move this bad policy out of the way of our farmers, who deserve to be able to compete on equal ground for market share in Cuba. We know there’s demand for quality U.S. products, and we should let producers meet that demand.”

Despite the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, U.S. producers have been able to export to the island since 2000. However, remaining restrictions on financial transactions involving Cuba have barred U.S. producers from offering financing to Cuban buyers, severely stunting export potential.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that American farmers and ranchers want the opportunity to compete and sell their product around the world, including in the Cuban market. Despite our progress in the 2018 Farm Bill, existing trade restrictions with Cuba continue to put our farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage,” Senator Bennet said. “This common-sense bill would unlock new market opportunities for Colorado farmers and ranchers who have a tremendous amount to gain from competing in the Cuban market.”

“Arkansas farmers need new markets and one solution is sitting less than one hundred miles off our coast. Cuba imports 80 percent of its food, but Americans start out at a disadvantage since private financing is not allowed. Our bill removes this barrier, allowing our agricultural producers to compete, while simultaneously exposing Cubans to American ideals, values and products. It’s a small step, but one that can yield big dividends for American farmers and the Cuban people,” said Senator Boozman.

Cuba imports about $2 billion in agricultural products annually. However, due to the cash-in-advance requirement, Cuba is left with little choice but to turn instead to international competitors like the European Union, Brazil, and Vietnam. U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba have declined every year since 2009 in terms of dollar amount, market share, and in the variety of products shipped. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that lifting these limits on American farmers through the proposed legislation would save U.S. taxpayers $690 million over 10 years.

Farmers seeking to export to Cuba won some success in the 2018 farm bill with aprovision that allows U.S. agricultural producers to use federal market promotion dollars for agricultural exports to Cuba. A cornerstone of Engage Cuba’s legislative advocacy efforts in the last Congress, this was the first law to repeal part of the U.S. embargo on Cuba in nearly 20 years.

The Senate Agricultural Export Expansion Act follows the introduction of its House companion bill H.R. 1898, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, in March by Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17).

More information on Cuba’s agricultural market is available here.