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More Senate Squabble, Fewer Jobs

September 13, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Still waiting for that big pivot when everyone in Congress starts acting like they actually care that the unemployment and poverty rates are are record high levels. In the meantime…

Republicans blocked an effort Monday by Senate Democrats to quickly pass a $7 billion aid package for victims of recent natural disasters like Hurricane Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest and the South and floods along the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers.

On a 53-33 vote, the Senate rejected an attempt by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring up a bill that Democrats had hoped to use to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s depleted disaster fund. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the measure.

Reid said FEMA has spent almost $400 million in the past two weeks on emergency help like food and shelter following Irene and has only about $300 million left.

President Barack Obama on Friday asked Congress for $500 million to make sure the disaster fund doesn’t run out of cash before the end of the month. He also officially asked for $4.6 billion for the upcoming budget year that starts Oct. 1.

What actually happened was that Senate Republicans, helped by 14 senators from both parties who didn’t even show up for the vote, blocked a motion to wrap up debate on whether or not to begin debating a bill to renew sanctions on Burma. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] had announced that he would be allowing a vote on attaching FEMA funds to the Burma bill as a way to expedite the process and make the money available for disaster relief as soon as possible. A good chunk of Senate Republicans appear to be against renewing the disaster fund unless some other spending is cut elsewhere (tax revenues are, of course, off the table). So, the they blocked the Senate from even getting to the point of voting on whether or not to proceed to deciding whether or not to debate the Burma bill. Now Reid has put the same motion back on the schedule for today, thinking perhaps that if more senators show up this time they’ll be able to move forward to the next big question — whether or not to debate the Burma bill. At this rate we might have an answer to that by the end of the week. Or we might not.

This is supposed to be “the world’s most deliberative body.” Does it sound to you like they’re up for solving our country’s economic crisis?

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