Congress

Rep. Sam Graves breaks with GOP to support disaster aid bill critical for Missouri

Rep. Sam Graves was the only Missouri Republican to vote in favor a $19 billion disaster aid package, which will be critical for the state’s recovery from recent flooding.

Graves’ district, which stretches across northern Missouri, was hit the hardest by the floods that besieged Missouri in March and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The U.S. House passed a disaster aid package Friday by 257-150.

It provides relief aid for hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. The bill will also steer $3 billion to agriculture programs to help farmers affected by the recent flooding, provide another $500 million to repair damaged roads across the Midwest and put $310 million toward flood control projects.

The bill addresses the loophole in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s relief programs that had previously meant farmers could not be compensated for damage to their stored crops.

“Today I voted for disaster relief funding that will provide critical assistance to folks in North Missouri devastated by recent flooding,” Graves said in a statement. “This relief bill allows the USDA to provide financial help for farmers who lost on-farm stored grain to the flooding—something experienced by many farmers along the Missouri River.”

Only 34 Republicans voted for the bill, which has proven surprisingly controversial because of President Donald Trump’s reluctance to send more aid to Puerto Rico as the U.S. territory continues to struggle to recover from the hurricane that battered the island in 2017.

A similar relief package failed to pass the GOP-controlled Senate because of the standoff on Puerto Rico. Graves noted the conflict on the issue could prevent the bill passed by the House from being signed into law.

“I am not confident this bill will become law,” Graves said. “I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will return to the table to pass a stronger disaster relief bill solely focused on helping those in need and ensuring the funds are spent properly.”

Graves was the only Republican from either Missouri or Kansas to support the bill, which was backed by every Democrat in the House.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, whose adjacent district was also hit by flooding, said earlier week that he’s been working closely with Graves to get relief to the state.

“I’m voting with the farmers and for the farmers. It impacts people who don’t even realize it: 80 percent of the Missouri economy is agriculture and the farmers are being killed. They get hit by floodwaters and then they get hit by tariffs,” Cleaver said.

The state is still waiting on President Donald Trump to officially approve the request for a disaster declaration made by Gov. Mike Parson last month.

Two GOP lawmakers from the region, Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas, were absent from the vote. The rest of the Republicans from the two states voted against it.

Related stories from McClatchy DC

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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