This was a vote on passage of a bill providing $5.1 billion to aid communities affected by natural disasters, and $600 million for a summer youth jobs program. The $5.1 billion was specifically granted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the federal agency charged with helping communities recover from natural disasters. According to the Democratic staff on the committee that drafted the legislation, a number of FEMA projects were on hold due to a shortage of funding. The summer jobs program was intended to employ 300,000 people between the ages of 16 and 21 during the summer months.
Rep. David Obey (D-MI), the chairman of the committee that drafted the disaster relief bill, urgedthe House to pass the legislation: "This a very simple bill. It provides $5.1 billion as requested by the President for FEMA disaster relief because FEMA will run out of money in the next 2 or 3 weeks....The bill also provides $600 million for youth summer jobs. This funding will support over 300,000 jobs for youth ages 16 to 21. This age group had some of the highest unemployment levels in the country."
Rep. David Price (D-NC) argued the bill was needed to sustain projects intended to support communities devastated by natural disasters: "This bill is about making sure that FEMA keeps its promises to devastated communities that are getting back on their feet as well as to those who may face disasters in the months to come. In addition to ongoing recovery costs associated with an active hurricane season and extraordinary flooding in the Midwest in 2008, FEMA is still required to pay for some very expensive outstanding costs related to Katrina, such as the devastated Louisiana schools and Charity Hospital."
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) argued the bill was fiscally irresponsible: "I believe that most Members would agree that the fiscal path that our country is currently on is unsustainable….We shouldn't continue to spend money we don't have."
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) called the legislation "an expensive and now hurried bill. It goes without saying that the administration and FEMA must do better in estimating and budgeting for the real costs of disasters. We have been on this broken path for too long."
The House passed the disaster relief bill by a vote of 239-175. 234 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted "yea." 167 Republicans and 8 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation providing $5.1 billion to aid communities affected by natural disasters, and $600 million for a summer youth jobs program.