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By Tim Leeds 

Tester, Rehberg at odds on FEMA funding


The federal lawmakers from Montana are continuing to work on issues regarding the flooding in the state and across the country, although two are taking a different view on funding for the federal disaster services.

Montana's Sen. Max Buacus, a Democrat, said Wednesday that a bill he co-sponsored would, in addition to reauthorizing the Economic Development Administration, increase the federal share of assistance to regions declared a disaster for 18 months.

"In Montana, we currently face severe flooding conditions. Areas like Roundup, Lodge Grass, Harlem, Fort Peck, Rocky Boy's, Lewistown and elsewhere are confronted with a crisis of biblical proportions," Baucus said on the floor of the Senate. "I was in Montana last week, witnessing the challenges that confront us, and, I am working very hard to ensure that federal resources will be available for Montanans in need."

Baucus, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., all have been active during the last few weeks, visiting flooded areas in the state and working on legislation related to disaster assistance.

Rehberg added an amendment May 30 to the House Agricultural Appropriations Bill urging the secretary of agriculture to work with ag producers impacted by flooding to give extensions on filing paperwork

Rehberg said May 24 that a House bill to fund Homeland Security increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency while still saving $3 billion more than the request by President Barack Obama.

"This bill simultaneously addresses our national spending crisis while also providing critical funding for Homeland Security priorities that have real and immediate impacts across our country," said Rehberg. "Montanans are facing emergency flood situations and that's why I voted to increase critical funding for disaster relief. I also crossed party lines to vote for the restoration of funding for the FEMA fire grant programs."

But Tester, whom Rehberg is challenging in the 2012 election, took a different view of that bill during a Senate hearing Wednesday.

"Does the recently passed House Homeland Security appropriations bill even come close to providing what you need?" Tester asked FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "In my understanding, it's at least a billion dollars short.

"You know what the needs are out there," added Tester, a member of the Homeland Security Committee which oversees FEMA. "You're the guy on the ground. You're the guy the Senate and the House I think look to, to make sure there's adequate funding out there. Is it adequate or is it not?"

Fugate said the agency still is assessing damage from weather disasters and that FEMA may need to request additional funds to address disasters across the country.


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