A vote for $7 billion dollars worth of disaster relief funding was blocked by Senate Republicans on Monday. The vote was 53-33 for the funding, but a 60-vote majority was required to pass it.
"Last night, Democrats tried to move forward on a measure that would have granted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) additional funding to help communities devastated by natural disasters," Sen. Harry Reid said in a statement.
"It’s in our power to help them. But last night Republicans overwhelmingly voted to prevent us from coming to their aid. They prevented us from getting disaster aid to American families and businesses that need it now. They don’t need help next week or next month," Reid said. "They need it now. They need it today."
Because of the increased number of natural disasters this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has just over $300 million left in its budget. President Barack Obama has issued disaster declarations in 48 states since the beginning of 2011.
The funds are so low that FEMA has stopped rebuilding the town of Joplin, Missouri, which was practically destroyed by tornadoes earlier this year. FEMA withdrew funding for the Joplin rebuilding in order to provide food and shelter to the victims of Hurricane Irene.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Monday that House Republicans would include a much smaller package of relief funds, attached to a budget request needed to keep the government operating through the end of September.
Cantor has previously tried to withhold disaster funds to force major budget cuts elsewhere, such as vehicle fuel efficiency programs, or public funding for light rail projects.