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Rebuilding American starts with disaster funds

From The Hill to the mountains

October 3, 2011
Sen. Joe Manchin

There is not a state in this great nation that hasn't suffered the terrible tragedy and cost of a natural disaster. While there are many government programs and issues we should vigorously debate, we surely cannot question the responsibility of government to help our communities in their darkest moments. This week I was frustrated as I am sure you were to watch our nation's leaders engage in yet another political exercise this time over funding for disaster relief.

In the America that I believe in, we don't look the other way when a community is suffering from the pain of a natural disaster, we stand up and offer a helping hand.

Our belief in helping each other is a bedrock value for this country, and it runs much deeper than a belief in a political party. We are Americans, and for the sake of this great nation I know we all love, these petty squabbles that have defined Washington like whether or not to bring government to a standstill over disaster relief funding to communities in need -- must end.

We all agree that funding for disaster relief should be paid for especially in light of the ever-growing deficits we have accrued. We know we must return to a path of fiscal responsibility, where we manage our budgets wisely and put away enough money for the eventual disasters that we know will strike.

But it is wrong no ifs, ands or buts about it to withhold disaster relief funds from communities that need them. And, it is also wrong to suggest as some Members of Congress did this week that the way we should pay for disaster relief is with funds from programs that are creating jobs, like the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

Both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers support the program, which is credited with saving or creating 39,000 American jobs, most of them at Ford, an American manufacturer something we need more of in this country. In fact, Ford actually moved a hybrid battery facility from Mexico to Michigan because of this loan program. I can think of a lot of programs that we should fight over, but are we really going to defund a program that has helped bring jobs back to America?

We should not keeping engaging in political theater, especially when it creates the false choice between funding disaster relief or eliminating a jobs program that actually helped create American jobs.

It is time for us to set our priorities. While we have neighbors here at home with serious needs neighbors who have survived tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, neighbors who need shelter and food I know that West Virginians will agree with me that it makes no sense to be spending billions of dollars on rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. I cannot believe that any American would choose to lose billions more in waste and corruption in Afghanistan while we ignore the needs of our neighbors at home.

To that end, this week I offered an amendment that would have offset the cost of funding FEMA by redirecting $1.6 billion from programs that will fund nation-building in Afghanistan and instead direct that money to FEMA to programs that rebuild America.

It is time for us to rebuild America, not rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. And, helping America rebuild during times of natural disaster must be a priority that cannot be defined by partisanship.

 
 
 

 

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