Three Massachusetts House Democrats are pushing a multiple amendment strategy to force House Republicans to restore up to $150 million in disaster funding for Massachusetts and other struggling fisheries as part of the emergency funding package for superstorm Sandy that the House of Representatives will consider next week. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the Dean of the Massachusetts delegation, along with fellow Massachusetts Democratic Reps. John Tierney and Bill Keating, longtime leaders in the effort to protect our fishing communities, have all filed amendments to the bill to get fishermen the support they need.
"Our delegation is committed to getting funds added to the Sandy supplemental for all of the fisheries disasters in 2012," the three Massachusetts Democrats said in a statement. "Our fishing communities face real and stark economic concerns and this emergency funding is critical to many of their survival. We urge the Republican-led Rules Committee to recognize the issues facing these small business owners, and allow the House to vote on our amendments."
Rep. Markey's amendment, which was filed today, seeks to restore the $150 million in funding as an emergency appropriation, and therefore would not require a reduction in spending from other relief programs in the bill. Rep. Markey is the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over fisheries issues and funding for NOAA.
Rep. Tierney announced his amendment earlier this week. The Tierney amendment is fully offset and would raise the fisheries funds from $5 million to $150 million. Tierney and Keating first urged House Appropriators to include assistance for Northeast fisheries in any disaster relief package early in December.
Rep. Keating's amendment, which was also announced earlier this week, increases the fisheries aid to $116 million and makes it available to all states that were issued disaster declarations in 2012. It is directly offset by the monies currently allotted for a reserve fund for the weather satellite program.
"Our Congressional delegation has been hard at work trying to secure funding for Massachusetts fishermen and we eagerly await Congress' decision next week," said Governor Deval Patrick. "This funding is crucial, given the severity of the disaster that our fishermen and fishing communities are facing."
Demoratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts also announced his support for all three amendments.
All three amendments would restore funding for fishermen who have had disasters declared in New England and elsewhere in 2012, but have yet to receive support. While a version of the legislation that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support last month included similar language, the bill introduced in the House does not. House Republicans failed to act on the Senate bill before the end of the 112th Congress.
Last fall, the three House Democrats and a bipartisan group of other New England lawmakers wrote to Congressional leaders asking for emergency funding after the Secretary of Commerce declared an economic disaster for the Northeast Multispecies - or groundfish -- fishery, which includes species like cod, flounder, and haddock.