HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The U.S. Senate did not pass a $13.6 billion disaster relief bill before adjourning in early April for spring break.
Now, Congress is back in session, but the spending measure still hasn’t been approved and Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones is angry about the lack of progress.
Jones, a Democrat joined a handful of his Republican colleagues -- Senators David Perdue of Georgia, Rick Scott of Florida, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- in calling for passage of a federal disaster aid bill.
Some of the money would go to Lee County which was hit by tornadoes in March, and Wiregrass region farmers impacted by Hurricane Michael.
During a conference call Thursday Jones said the lack of action is one of the biggest problems facing Alabama.
“The lack of disaster relief funding for folks across the state who’ve experienced these extreme weather instances,” he said. “Frankly folks I’ve got to tell you, I am just literally mad as hell that Congress can’t come to some kind compromise and agreement on this and find common ground.”
Jones made a return visit to Lee County last week.
“I went back to Smith Station last week down in Lee County to check in on how the recovery efforts are going,” he said. “The area that was hit by the devastating tornadoes in March and I was so impressed by that community and how they are rebuilding and all the officials who have worked so hard to rebuild.”
The holdup includes fighting over disaster areas a long way from Alabama. Jones said he’s discussed the issue with President Trump and his fellow Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. Jones said he’s also discussed his concerns with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking member on the appropriations committee.
“The President has been in a political fight with Puerto Rico, at the same time Democrats want to get more aid, and so they’ve all kind of drawn lines in the sand,” he said.
Jones said he’s seen some encouraging movement this week from the President and Republican leaders, but he says it shouldn’t have gone this far.
“When you think of political dysfunction is Washington DC, this is a perfect example, but hopefully there’s some breakthroughs that we’re seeing and get this across the finish line.”