Sixteen powerful men in Washington, D.C., voted against aid that would help millions of Americans across the country dealing with natural disasters, including those suffering in Puerto Rico with no electricity or clean water. On Monday evening, 16
GOP senators voted against a disaster relief bill that would have provided $36.5 billion to federal programs that help, like FEMA, the national flood insurance program, and emergency food assistance for Americans in Puerto Rico. Still, the bill advanced anyway, with a vote of 79 to 16, and a final vote could happen Tuesday.
During the debate, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson proposed more aid for those dealing with Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria,
The Hill reported. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the increase, while saying the Senate "remains committed to doing its part to support the ongoing hurricane relief efforts." McConnell called it a "multistage process" and reiterated the Senate's commitment to hurricane relief efforts.
When the House passed the same bill,
69 Republican representatives voted against the measure; not one Democrat joined them. When the bill passed the House nearly two weeks ago, some legislator believed that more money would become necessary. Now Republicans are putting up a fight in the Senate, pushing for spending cuts that offset the spending (while also pushing a tax plan that could add more than $1 trillion to the deficit).
Here are the 16 senators who voted against helping their fellow Americans (Bustle has reached out to them for comment).
Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming
Sen. Barrasso was appointed as a senator in 2007 when his predecessor died — now he's in his first full term after winning in 2012. He's focused on
passing legislation on wildfires, but he seems to have changed his tune on aid. He voted in favor of the Hurricane Harvey aid bill, focused on Texas. Now that Puerto Rico is in the mix, he voted no. Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas
Sen. Cotton is the Senate's youngest member, having been elected in 2014 at the age of 37. He voted
in favor of Hurricane Harvey aid, but is now opposed to an aid package that includes food assistance for Puerto Ricans. Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho
Like his colleague from Wyoming, this Western senator is all for
working on wildfires — even with FEMA. He, too, voted in favor of the Harvey bill and against the legislation providing aid to Puerto Ricans. Sen. Mike Enzi, Wyoming
Sen. Enzi was elected to the Senate in 1996, and has consistently voted against disaster relief aid. On top of his "no" vote on this disaster relief bill, he also
voted against the Harvey aid bill.
In the past the senator has spoken about directing aid at
those who need it most. His press secretary, Max D'Onofrio, tells Bustle that this time his opposition comes from the National Flood Insurance Program provisions in the bill. D'Onofrio also noted that Sen. Enzi is the Chairman of the Budget Committee. Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona
Elected in 2012, Sen. Flake has also
consistently been against natural disaster aid since Hurricane Harvey. Rather than vote for funding aid, he is focusing on reducing the wages of workers who carry out rebuilding by suspending a bill that requires contractors pay the "prevailing" wage in an area. Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma
Sen. Inhofe, first elected in 1994, is another lawmaker who voted
for Harvey aid, but struck down the broader package that includes Puerto Rico. His press office seems to have been for FEMA help in the past, when his state was in need. Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Sen. Mike Lee, Utah
In the past, Lee opposed disaster relief aid because it wasn't
offset with spending cuts. He voted against both Harvey aid and advancing the new bill.
This time around, he said on the floor:
Instead of helping the victims of these disasters through responsible aid paired with lasting reform, Congress has rushed to its favorite "solution": Billions in new spending, with little accountability or oversight. If this $36.5 billion aid package passes, it will mean more money and power for government programs that in some cases left us vulnerable to these disasters. If it passes, the politicians and lobbyists will pat themselves on the back for doing a good deed—and then move on to the next billion-dollar spending opportunity.
He went on with specifics, much of it
tied to the government's debt, and also Puerto Rico's. His upcoming vote on tax reform will be something to watch too. Lee has represented Utah since 2011. Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky
Paul, a Kentucky senator since 2011, voted against Harvey relief and against advancing the current bill. A libertarian, he is also
pushing for cuts elsewhere to pay for the disaster spending. One big plan was to cut spending overseas by the same amount spent on American disaster relief. Sen. David Perdue, Georgia
Perdue won election in 2014, and he isn't totally against FEMA — or at least he advised his constituents to use their apps while preparing for Hurricane Irma. He also
voted for the Harvey funding.
Now, though, he's against advancing the current aid bill that includes Puerto Rico.
Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama
Shelby's vote seems odd given that Alabama has
at times been hit with hurricanes, and other natural disasters that FEMA helps with. He has been against aid to certain states, particularly in opposing money for Sandy a few years ago. He did vote in favor of the Texas Harvey aid; it's just this current bill that he voted against.
An employee in Shelby's office who didn't want to be identified tells Bustle that the senator doesn't agree with the $16 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program. "He has long been an opponent of bailouts," the source says.
Sen. Luther Strange, Alabama
Newly appointed to the Senate in 2017, Strange is new to Washington. It's hard to know what he thinks about such things, but he did
vote in favor of Harvey aid and against this latest relief bill. Sen. Patrick Toomey, Pennsylvania
Sen. Toomey won election in 2010, and again won reelection in 2016, beating Katie McGinty. He's consistently voted against Harvey aid and the new bill, but the reason why is unclear. He's released statements
supporting flood insurance in the past, a big part of where the funding in the bill goes to.
These 16 senators will not stop continued aid, but this is their current position. If you'd like to change it,
consider calling them to let them know why supporting disaster relief for all Americans is important.