Senator Johanns e-Update
The Senate has a busy day ahead of us as we get set to vote on final passage of the National Defense Authorization bill (NDAA) and consider legislation on disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy.
I am happy to report that the final version of the NDAA includes a few of my amendments, like the HIRE at Home Act, which assists returning veterans in search of work. The bill also includes funding for the next phase of construction of the new STRATCOM command and control facility at Offutt Air Force Base. This project is important for our national defense and it’s something I’ve been working to make a reality. I’m looking forward to ensuring the progress already made at STRATCOM is able to continue. An earlier version of this bill received unanimous support in the Senate and I am confident this final version will also receive wide support among my colleagues.
The Senate’s other order of business today, will be to work on a disaster relief bill for Hurricane Sandy. I have voted for needed disaster assistance before and am willing to do so again. In our part of the country, we know far too well the suffering that can occur after Mother Nature’s wrath and the immediate assistance that is needed to help rebuild communities. The current proposal before the Senate however, provides a small amount of immediate assistance to hurricane victims and instead spends millions of dollars on federal agencies such as providing $150 million for Alaskan fisheries or $70 million on wildlife refuges from Florida to Maine. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates only $8.9 billion of relief aid would be spent in 2013, with more than 60 percent of the total funding in the bill delayed until 2015 or later. This is far from immediate assistance, and I believe this is a disservice to the victims who need real help now. Some of my colleagues have offered an alternative bill that would cut the wasteful spending and provide funding to help those communities that need the assistance. This is a much better approach to disaster relief and I will continue to work with my colleagues to provide disaster assistance in a fiscally responsible way.
An amendment that would affect Nebraska could also be included in the Sandy relief bill. It’s an amendment that would provide some disaster relief for livestock producers and uninsured crop producers. The amendment however, does not include the reform of ag disaster relief that was included in the farm bill and would save $23 billion. These reforms overwhelmingly passed the Senate in the farm bill earlier this year, and I voted for this responsible ag disaster relief. I will continue to work with members of the Senate and House ag committees to ensure we pass a long-term farm bill that includes disaster assistance and gives our producers the certainty they need.
I also wanted to update you on the fiscal cliff. House Speaker John Boehner has offered several plans in the hopes of reaching an agreement with the President. No deal has yet been reached. The Constitution requires any bill that raises revenue to originate in the House. If Congress and the President are going to reach an agreement that includes both raising revenues and cutting spending, constitutionally, this bill must start in the House of Representatives and they have passed an extension of all the current tax rates that sits on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk. Going forward, we need a bill that can pass both the House and the Senate and one the President is willing to sign. I have been working and remain committed to working with any of my colleagues who want to find a solution to our country’s debt crisis. The Senate will be coming back after Christmas and I intend to keep working so a solution can be found before January 1.
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